"FROM PARKING LOT INTO A VIBRANT COMMUNITY HUB" is a community-engaged placemaking project that transformed a used shipping container into a unique community space in Vanier. The new "ArtPod" is now home to skateboarding and basketball equipment that is brought out to the parking lot to turn it into a community recreational park by Vanier Community Service Centre. Once in a while, it will also serve as a pop-up gallery to showcase the community's talent!
This monument to the people of Vanier was inspired by the community and created with the community. When we asked residents what they loved about Vanier the most two answers were most prominent - "incredible diversity" and "extremely friendly people" that live here. This is how the concept of this "container mural" was born - with a rainbow background to represent the amazing array of cultures and languages that coexist in this neighbourhood and people's stories in the foreground - that make it so special :)
Background: a "rainbow circle" to represent all walks of life together, united. Each colour of the rainbow is a stylized representation of the Vanier "hardware" that people named as their "favourite"- little beautiful houses, winding streets, parks and nature, the Rideau River and Ottawa core across the river. The rising Sun here was greatly inspired by Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. The concept of "Wabano"- means the morning twilight and Ojibway Elders say that it is "the most powerful time - where the magic happens and new beginnings are possible."
Foreground: people, in the end, are what makes Vanier unique :) We received so many beautiful heartwarming stories about family, friendship and neighbours coming together during the time of unrest to make each other lives a little bit brighter, a little bit happier. These have been stories of humanity, love and care for one another and they all found their place on the container's walls.
I thought of children's book illustration as the most accessible and inclusive style - as clearly people who live in Vanier today come from very diverse backgrounds and cultures, but one thing that may unite us all - is that we all at some point were children. Plus, of course, this is a mural for a community hub that will host many family and children's events :)
It was an experiment of marrying live portrait drawing with mural making. Though these stories come from a wild diversity of people's backgrounds, you probably won't see it in these doodles. I love diversity from an angle of our shared humanity, and for this reason, I never make an accent of what makes us different - like skin colour or the shape of eyes. Instead, I like focusing on what unites us and makes us human - our stories. The story of Vanier is made from all these many different and beautiful stories, and here is to them!
Today, the ArtPod belongs to the Vanier Community Service Centre that hosts weekly skateboarding events for neighbourhood children every Wednesday from 4 to 6 PM! Sadly, we had to cancel our opening event due to the rise of COVID cases in Ottawa. We will probably have to wait until Spring 2021 to celebrate it, but it is definitely coming!
This project would not be possible without the skillful assistance of the supporting artist Renee Michaud, the amazing painting skills of our Mural Art Camp participants Fabi Gomez and Serenity Cote, Vanier community member who has helped us throughout the project with so much dedication - Richard Groot, photographer Caleb Ficner, and all community members who shared stories with us and came out to make it together. Special thanks to artist cj fleury - my mentor and friend, who has been always supportive and encouraging before, during and after this project.
This project was developed as part of the Neighbourhood Arts Ottawa artist-residency program by Arts Network Ottawa - an amazing initiative that fosters community-engaged arts in the city and nurtures knowledge sharing amongst art professionals. Thank you so much to the Arts Network Ottawa team for supporting this project along the way, and the generous funders - Ontario Trillium Foundation and Ottawa Community Foundation. Kudos to the Vanier BIA, Vanier Community Service Association for very important in-kind support. And hats off to Vanier Community Service Centre for being so creative, open-minded, and forward-thinking to let their parking lot to be used for community fun! And special thanks to Jean-Michel Rousseau and Camille Marcil for a great team effort to make this project reality :)
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR MAKING IT TOGETHER!!
P.S. All stages of the creation process have been documented on www.instagram.com/al.fergani.
As part of Neighbourhood Arts Ottawa, a program presented by Arts Network Ottawa.
P.S. These are some creative submissions we received from the residents :)
Please enjoy the below. Vanier is truly a creative neighbourhood!
"This photo shows a young girl peering into a bucket attached to a maple tree being tapped for its syrup. I like to play with depth and unique frames in my images. I had been carefully lining up this photo, when suddenly the girl ran into the frame. I was quick to react and captured this spontaneous and inquisitive pose.
I took the picture in April 2019 during Vanier's Sugar Festival, which is put on annually by MuséoParc Vanier. Vanier's sugar bush is one of the few that are active in an urban environment.
The festival is one of my favourite events in our community. MuséoParc Vanier puts on many cultural activities in celebration of Vanier's unique and diverse heritage. It's also one of the earliest signs of spring where I look forward to the warmer days that lie ahead."
Caleb Ficner (@calebficner)
"I grew upin Vanier. My father Jacques Berlinguette still lives here in the same house since 1965. I wrote a poem about him..."
Patsea Griffin, Thunderbird Sisters Collective
Daddy and the Window
With the fear of Covid-19
We protect what we hold dear
We visit with papa
From the outside
Through the large front window
I remember as a child
Against the back of the sofa
Nose pressed against
That large front window
Waiting for daddy to come home
Always exciting to see him
Pull in to the driveway
Get out of the car
Maybe with treats
Maybe Chinese food
Maybe with some news
Jumping and shouting
All five of us
Must have driven my mother nuts
Mom was always happy
To see him too
She loved her Jack
Through the same window
I imagine him
Watching us leave the nest
One after the other
Silently hoping for the best
We’ve been staring
In and out of that window
For almost 60 years now
Watched people come and go
Watched families grow
We’ve seen love and heartbreak
From that large front window
If he imagined all the joy
This place would see
It certainly outweighs the sorrow
As a young father
What did he see
When he stood
At the large front window
For the first time
When the house was empty
Trying to decide
Whether to buy or not to buy
A man of vision
I bet he saw it all
Patsea, her daddy and the big window (Vanier, Ottawa, 2020)
Children participants of Vanier Community Service Centre programs expressed it through their own art:
And someone else reminded that he also lived in Vanier and "it holds a special place in his heart" ;)
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTIONS!