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:

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.

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.