Walk Leader: Claire Grady-Smith
Text by: Claire Grady-Smith
Photographs by: Claire Grady-Smith
In Kingston, we walked to learn about many aspects of our city’s history: its Jewish history, gay and lesbian history, prison history, and the history of its health care and its public art works. As City Organizer, I led this last walk myself. A fortuitous confluence of events made the walk more relevant and poignant than it otherwise would have been.
As a volunteer with the local artist-run centre, Modern Fuel, I had helped a Vancouver artist install his ephemeral public art piece on the Friday night before our Saturday walk. Charles Campbell’s work, part of an exhibition entitled Transporter, involved affixing hive-like cardboard structures to “park furniture,” as he terms the municipal signs and light posts.
As a result, I was able to show my walkers not only the state-sponsored, monumental art pieces, but also an example of the kind of contemporary, embedded art practice that is equally important for a community, although it may only last a couple of days due to rain, wind and human interference.
I was reading Ken Greenberg at the time, who quotes Jane Jacobs when he discusses the importance of creating a platform for art and culture to flourish, rather than imposing only top-down versions of culture, such as festivals or other structured events. The crowd was struck by the possibility that the city streets, alleys and parks could be a stage for artistic production, exhibition and performance; it gave them a sense of the potential, and importance, of spontaneous moments of cultural interaction. I watched as a newfound appreciation for art and artists took hold of the group, and I answered the questions that began to flow.