NaNoWriMo, a scattering, jazz, Christmas, and annoyances

Time to take a break and write something. I dropped by my local Bridgehead today and Devon mentioned she hadn't seen me in a while. When I explained that I'd been too busy being retired to sit and relax, they were all pretty amused. But here's what I've been up to:

NaNoWriMo - I "won", as in I reached the limit of 50,000 words in November. That's about 200 pages worth. Actually, was 50,403, but who's counting. Only a final draft though - lots of editing to do before even think of publishing.

A scattering - my mother Marie took ill suddenly, just before her 95th birthday. It was mainly pneumonia, she lasted only another 5 days but luckily it was enough time for us all to be with her and help her along - talking and joking almost right to the end. A long and mostly good life we all thought - ups and downs like all of us, lots of friends lots of places. Some places she lived - Sturgeon Falls, Cheminus, Kirkland Lake, France, North Bay, Toronto, Mexico. We scattered her ashes in the cemetery in an Oak grove. Her maiden name was Beauchesne (beautiful oak), so a nice touch we thought.

Jazz - Our New Horizons band played last night at a fundraiser in Barrhaven, five pieces. Slightly nervous with our first public performance, but went well. We will be playing again Dec 8th at Dominion Chalmers Church.  

Christmas - I'm having the kids over to my new place December 11th, so will need to get going here on decorating and presents. Oh, and finally unpacking everything, as there's not really anyplace to hide all these boxes. I may have to carry more stuff out to the curb, or down the street to the St. Vincent de Paul store.

Annoyances- We finished all our mural projects for the summer, to very positive feedbackl from our customers and communities, we're just wrapping up now. Our "friend" Frank contacted our latest customer, Odawa, in mid November, with the same old same old in his email, even further off the mark this time, it is annoying in a way but does give more opportunities to enlighten all those included on the mailings.  We're hoping to do more projects over the winter, indoors of course, some Art For Action type projects with some schools and youth groups.

More details below on all the above.

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CPO Toolkit - some suggestions

A few months ago, Crime Prevention Ottawa launched a "toolkit" for neighbourhoods, for each area to use to help reduce crime. They've just re-sent it out to their mailing list.

There are some good tips, suggestions, and links in it - I have a few criticisms and suggestions to add:

  • as many do, this prevention guide cites the "broken window" theory - that is you leave windows broken, garbage around, and poor lighting in an area, it will show it's not cared for and petty crime will continue there. Fair enough, but then the guide (and many others) say this will also lead to an increase in serious crime. Not necessarily so - I looked further into this a few years ago - see this article.
  • graffiti management focus on eradication and enforcement - clean it off right away and patrol the area more. Both of these work, but so can covering the offending wall with a mural - preferably community designed with local youth involved in the solution. Ottawa's own Paint It Up! program has directed $50,000 to that sort of approach this summer, with excellent results. More on that on my home page, or on that of Ottawa Urban Arts. Hopefully the next tool-kit edition will include information on this program.
  • community cleanup advice should also include mural work. Although currently the Ottawa graffiti bylaws will fine you for graffiti on a business or residential property,under the permanent sign bylaw  only businesses or multi-residential areas are allowed to cover it with a mural. So far, if it's your own garage or fence, you have to just keep painting it over.

From the release:

Crime Prevention Ottawa’s Neighbourhood Toolkit is an online resource (a printable version is also available on the website) that provides ideas, information and resources to help Ottawa residents make their neighbourhoods better places to live. The Toolkit encourages residents to get involved in their neighbourhoods and to be accountable and proactive about community safety. Individuals, community associations, Neighbourhood Watch volunteers and many others will find helpful ideas and practical information about building safer neighbourhoods from the ground up. The Toolkit also contains information about specific problems and crimes and how to get help from municipal and community resources in Ottawa. You can learn more about the Toolkit by visiting:

Ottawa Urban Arts - positive light in the SUN

The Ottawa Sun came last weekend and talked with us (Ottawa Urban Arts) about our work. We were a little cautious after some of the negative spin we'd received, but they showed a balanced understanding of some of the issues, and a desire to learn more. The reporter, Tony Spears,  wanted to talk about the Paint It Up! program and what projects we had done so far, and their impact. He spent a while with us at the Jules Morin field house wall, part of the Lowertown project we are doing, also was a photographer there for some shots of artists at work. He made a short video too, all here on the article.

It was as a good article, focusing mainly on the positive work we were doing, and of course attracted comments - many negative, some positive. And apparently attracted a few letters to the editor - trash talking us and our past. 

We've decided that debating our history is time consuming and a losing battle - our detractors don't seem that interested in facts or any possible positive effects. What is relevant to us - and the program - is the positive impact we know our work is having on the community groups and youth we work with - and we know this from comments in the sessions as well as written feedback after the events. I added a comment to the Sun article to that effect, as follows:

Thanks for the positive coverage of this program. The $50,000, compared to a total police budget of $300 million, is money well spent, spent mainly on supplies by the way, plus a modest youth fee - ee won't get rich from this.
We have had positive feedback from community members, youth program coordinators, and youth themselves. They like both the collaborative design process and the finished murals. In the workshops the youth have learned to express themselves better on their own issues, via the various media we use, and have demonstrated some positive behavioural changes to the concepts and role models we have shown them.
And that's what is really relevant here - positive changes to communities and youth via art.
That's our passion. 


More negative vibes on our mural work with youth - a new fan?

The Citizen published a positive article last weekend on a mural on the wall of the Ottawa Mission. It's one of several walls being done by our group, Ottawa Urban Arts. It's part of the city's Paint It Up! program, sponsored by Crime Prevention Ottawa, designed to prevent tagging, redirect "youth at risk", and also beautify the city.

I was called yesterday about a couple of emails the Citizen had received, one anonymous, one from a Peter Lamar. Content was similar to ones we saw last year-alleges our artists are all currently active graffiti vandals, a selection of photos from the past few years of various tags - most of the photos taken illegally from on-line sites, and a warning to prospective customers not to hire us.

We have tried to get these people to see the positive side of what we do - not interested. They focus on the past, missing the point that often a person's past helps them relate better to current issues - and to others in similar situations.

Here's the article the Citizen published today - could have been more supportive I think, too bad they gave a voice to this vocal minority.

And here's what I sent in today as a Letter to the Editor.

Note - I found out later they did check Lamar's background, and what they found was not relevant to the story. So I asked myself, what did they find? I did a Googlefor the words Peter Lamar Ottawa, and found several entries for that name and location, one about helping in a rescue, and several describing charges in 2005 of 27 Criminal Code offenses, including trafficking in firearms. I've no idea if that is the same person, no idea if the charges stuck. I would hope that whomever this was, they were given the opportunity to reform their ways and the support to do so, and also to learn to help others heading down the same path.

Just as our artists do with the youth we work with. 

Anyways - the letter to the Editor...

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