Walking through the most recent edition of Art Walk, arguably the best site for artists and pedestrians to come tête-à-tête with one another, there was a greater expectation to something inspiring, to define what we should call “art.”
In many ways, Art Walk serves as a decorative refresher to an urban stroll through the city. In theory, art in public places makes the city more attractive and appealing. In practice, the art in discussion was sometimes worth a closer glance, but not often.
Not to dismiss pedestrian art altogether, but most of the pieces found on Art Walk were on display for sale—as such, most were safe, appealing decorations. There’s space for that type of art, but block after block I was hoping for something more engaging.
Walking east on the north side of Whyte with large canvasses of still life and travel photography propped up all along the way, the scenery made me think of what-could-be if and when the 118 Avenue community proposal goes underway.
Developers believe the area to be the “next” arts district, and a community proposal wants to use art as a way to boost civic morale and improve the overall neighbourhood aesthetic. The art in discussion would consist of family-orientated pieces in empty store fronts a la The Works, but they are purportedly borrowing this public-art model from Boston’s Art Windows project from 2005.
A venture by the city of Boston and Boston-area artists, digital art works confronted pedestrians in the down-and-out downtown crossing area in an example of a successful revitalization project. One example of street-level art from Boston was a large digital green happy face that turns sombre whenever a pedestrian passes by. Still safe and appealing, the difference is in its level of consideration for the transient nature of the experience. Engaging with the act of walking, and by execution understanding art in public spaces as an exercise in creating something innovative and interactive, art can be inspiring.
When asked, Art Walk alumni from this year and previous have said they did it for the exposure. Exposure to the general public, connections to fellow fringe artists and the opportunity to connect one-on-one about something you obviously believe in are not restricted to only those with something to sell. The defining character of Art Walk is the interaction that goes on between artists and the public; here’s only hoping that future Art Walks (or any use of public space for art) will consider expanding the general understanding of “art” beyond 2D commodities.