Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mayor Jim Watson: Building (and Painting) Bridges

Its time to give props when it appears that there is a change happening in this city's approach to street art. A bright student of mine e-mailed me an article from The Ottawa Citizen that suggests Mayor Watson wants more murals on the 417 overpasses


To be clear: murals are not the same as graffiti, so this is not exactly what one would call a "loosening" of the 'zero tolerance' approach to graffiti regulation that escalates tensions between citizens unnecessarily (as I have talked about elsewhere on this blog). 

HOWEVER: This is SO GOOD for the city on many fronts:
Consider what urban art (Living Walls) did for Atlanta

First: it is a step towards embracing colour as a possibility in this city. More than just "pretty" though, it challenges that ideology that grey is the colour of safety and security. To 'educate' a citizenship that there is any validity to the unproven premise that markings on a wall communicate "risk"(to the economy or personal safety) is irresponsible. Particularly given we live in the safest city in Canada, with some of the highest housing prices (which brings with it some of the problems we are facing with who get to be able to live downtown...). These things are largely a product of our economic footings: a workforce dedicated in large part to serving government administration, not our grey walls. 

Second: this is an opportunity for the City of Ottawa to court many of the artists who have incredible skills in working with paint and cement. If you truly want to support young artists who WANT to work painting legitimately, then I look forward to hearing about how proposals for these murals will be encouraged. I look forward to hearing about many of the talented street artists I know are applying to paint these spaces. By supporting this initiative, you are fostering a positive environment for artists to flourish. Lets tell our artists we want them to stay in Ottawa...

These are early days, and I am confident there will be hiccups and some 3-1-1 calls from citizens worried about what encouraging art will "tell" kids.

I urge you to stay firm Jim Watson. This is progress, and I for one take this as a positive sign for what lies ahead or this city we both love. Here is my sincere thanks for taking this step. If you, the reader, want to make sure he gets this message and you are on Twitter (I am not), why not tweet this @JimWatsonOttawa

And come on BIAS and local businesses: come join us - we will need some paint to help support this initiative.  If you want to contact me directly to chat about why this will help you, please do! 

Atlanta artist EVEREMAN spoke to me last fall about a series of global installations of his work. 
Wouldn't it be nice if Ottawa was one of them?