Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By Emily Huang

December 9, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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Reclaiming Spaces through Public Art

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Public spaces are the identity of the city. They give life to the city as great gathering places for events, celebrations, creativity, and socialization on a day to day basis. Public spaces also benefit cities and neighbourhoods economically, culturally and environmentally, creating a foundation for healthy growing cities and neighbourhoods. These spaces create cultural diversity through the intermixing of people, as well as visually enhance and benefit the surrounding environment, providing a sense of safety to people gathering and using the space. However, when there are underutilized or a lack of public spaces, people feel less of a connection to their community.

Artwork is a crucial feature of a good public space, making the space inviting and building creativity. Creating more space for public art, especially in public spaces such as parks, is an excellent way to liven up spaces that are underutilized or perceived as unsafe. Public art projects no longer require only the artist to create art; instead, it embraces collaboration of community members and park users. This creates a space for everyone to artistically embellish parks in what they value as a community, thus transforming parks into multi-use destinations.

An example is Vancouver Collingwood’s Slocan Park. In the 1980s, Collingwood had issues of increasing crime rates and a lack of community. As a result, Slocan Park was a safety concern for the locals. The Arts Pow Wow project was established to reclaim the park and promoted cultural activities and public art that reflected the identity of the community. This project developed a sense of place, and the public art was reflective of the cultural diversity of Collingwood. Since then, there have been many art and cultural initiatives through the City and Collingwood Neighbourhood House to enhance Collingwood’s public space. Public art can be a tool for communities to improve their public environments, and the opportunity to develop a sense of pride and ownership. According to Project for Public Spaces, having convenient accessibility to and around public space, enhanced by a safe and well-maintained image with multiple uses and activities, are key aspects to what makes public spaces great places.

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