Spring blooms in an alley

Some eagerly await the colourful flowers of spring, I await the colourful art in a back alley. I'm in Toronto for the long weekend - for family, friends, and flics. Today was warm and sunny, so I grabbed my camera and headed down to the alleys of Queen west to check out the latest art. I wandered along past the dumpsters, admiring the walls, finding some new work, some old work. Grabbed some detail closeups, and some full shots of the pieces. Also took some wider shots for context, and to remind me just where I am. There are a lot of walls in the alleys from University to Bathurst. Some other people were there too, a bar owner parking his BMW, kitchen staff grabbing a quick smoke in the sun, students taking a shortcut, and a young girl with a camera and eager eye for urban art. Turned out Amanda was doing a paper on graffiti art and youth culture, so I bent her ear for a while and passed on my card. Further on I met Beth, her camera on a tripod, taking closeups of the art. More exchanging of cards and anecdotes. Lots of walking, still lots more alleys to cover this weekend.

Elicser Art Exhibit @ Norml March 20th

On March 20th, Toronto based graffiti artist Elicser brings his surreal works to Norml art gallery for a six week show. Elicser_norml posterF (Medium)

Armed with only spray cans, Elicser transforms canvases and walls to blend into figurative works of art, utilizing vivid characters and scenic landscapes. This gallery showing will be a combination of canvas works and pieces painted directly onto the gallery walls. 

Here's a link to many photos on Flickr of his murals, including some of my pics.

And here's a link to some of his earlier art, at them.ca.

The Elicser exhibit at Norml opens on Saturday (20th), but on Friday the artist will be painting art on the walls in preparation. Drop by to watch him work, have a chat, admire his work, and buy some for your own walls. A good range of prices, for the starving student or the serious collector. 

The show will run from March 20 to May 1. 

Norml is at 184 Rideau street in Ottawa, and on Facebook as Norml Clothing. For more info call Norml at (613) 562-2043. 

Ottawa Urban Arts

It looks like there will soon be a new grouping of artists here in Ottawa to work on murals - and work on developing an overall program and build on the several murals they did here last summer. I've been working for the past few weeks with a couple of young urban art artists here in Ottawa - people with not just great artistic skills but with some good business skills, with a desire to get serious about developing their own skills and those of their friends, with the motivation to keep at it, and I hope the leadership to bring some of their friends along too.  I'll be mentoring the process, and encouraging local artists to get directly involved, to show they are serious about not only doing a mural here or there, but adding the depth of a strong local urban arts group. I had written a while ago about what I saw as a lack of this focus and motivation here in Ottawa at this time - I'm glad to see some promise here.

The name will Ottawa Urban Arts. We left out "graffiti" to bypass some misconceptions people have.  That's one of their goals - to change that attitude and develop an appreciation for this art form and more acceptance of the artists. Right now most of the artists do come from a graffiti art background, and that style will influence some of their work. 

Next steps are to refine the mission and some goals, building a web page, and identifying - in the various target groups - who to contact.

There will be a screening process, to determine the style level of the artists, and their specialities. In addition, the group will work with them to develop their artistic skills more, as well as help them acquire some business skills. The team will also start off a few of the more developed ones as leads for projects -  accountable to meet with a customer over initial design ideas, pull together a suitable team, do a detailed design and estimate, sign off on a contract, and supervise both the art and business sides of the project. And when it's finished OK - collect the fee and do a lesson's learned. 

The intent is not to just collect mural requests, but to also actively promote the groups ideas and skills - to business owners, residents, schools, Business Improvement Areas, community groups, city staff, councillors, arts groups, community police. 

We will also use the program Art For Action to work with youth.

The purpose of the community mural mentorship program is to enable youth to identify issues that concern them, express themsleves, and be empowered to advocate for themselves and their peer group about issues within their communities in a positive, constructive way.
Art can be a powerful tool to communicate ideas outside the structures and rules of formal language. This allows those unfamiliar, uncomfortable or uninterested in using formal language to communicate despite the presence of linguistic, socio-economic, and cultural barriers.
The artistic media used in this project are introductory tools, selected to ensure the broadest participation regardless of previous experience or perceived creative ability. Providing individuals with positive avenues of self expression, mentoring youth to refine their artistic skill and providing youth with space where this skill can be legally and positively expressed will help lessen negative, destructive behaviour often prevalent among youth; behaviours that stem from an inability to successfully engage and communicate with one’s peers and community. 
A portion of the Art for Action program is designed to help redirect at-risk youth who have been in contact with the law for charges of graffiti. They will be encouraged to participate in discussions about the difference between positive and negative street art and their effect on the community, and on how to maximize opportunities to exercise artistic expression in a socially beneficial manner. Lead artists from Ottawa Urban Arts will mentor them on the importance of refining artistic skill.
 I'll add more info and a link in here as soon as I have it.

Edit - Now have a web site. And we will also be applying for projects as part of Ottawa's Paint It Up! program.

Graffiti murals in Ottawa

Update - summer 2010 - some artists did step up and show initiative and leadership - good news for Ottawa. We're currently doing this as Ottawa Urban Arts. More on my site too, here.

I sent the following as a letter to many of my contacts in Ottawa, as well as Toronto and Montreal - artists, BIA/s, police, councillors, youth groups. Feedback from several of them is the same. Many years of opposition and indifference from the conservative Ottawa "establishment" drove out the developing artists that were ready to get more serious about their work and dedicate more time and focus on it, take a more business-like approach. Maybe with time two or three will emerge from the current artists to take over this role again. Has to come from them, we can't force it. 

Feel free to offer comments or suggestions.

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