Love of Cities

In January, the city of Grande Prairie invited author Peter Kageyama to host a workshop, titled For the Love of Cities. The main theme of his workshop, and book of the same name, was that “a city that is loved thrives”. He showed examples of cities throughout the United States and Canada that have memorable ‘somethings’ that stand out, give the city a unique flair and that residents love and are proud of. He encouraged our group to voice what we love about our city now, the responses were quite varied and eye-opening. We also had small group discussions; in one we were asked to consider our city from a different age group’s perspective and the good and bad that would be seen from their eyes. In another exercise, the idea of city tshirts was brought up – if you could design a tshirt depicting your city, how would it look and what would it say?

Being a freelance photog/designer, and also someone who was ‘from away’, I think some things stand out to me that may just be part of the landscape to people that grew up here. Two of the designs were ideas our Mayor shared with me, and the other two are downtown landmarks that I like.

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‘The Grande’ (top left) was inspired by Mayor Bill Given and sketched by artist Dan Wourms. Bill’s first concept was that the size of Grande Prairie, at just over 50,000, is like the grande – not too big and not too small. It is also a play on words because many people mispronounce our city’s name due to the added ‘e’.. it is pronounced [grand].

Next is ‘the Barber Shop’ (top right), inspired by the neat little old school barber shop that is located downtown in one of the cities oldest brick buildings. I take my two boys to get their hair cuts done there, snapped the shot of the old chair one day, and I loved it. The lighting, the chair, the feel.. I had to do something with that pic. Later taking the photo of their sign, and the barber pole, it came together as a nice collage.

‘The 4-5’ (bottom left) was another of Bill’s ideas. The 4 and the 5 touch down on locations at aptly nicknamed local landmark – 4 Mile Corner and 5 Mile Hall. So I went with a grid-like concept, outlining the city limits from a satellite image. I also added keywords that I think of related to Grande Prairie, Alberta – Opportunity, Innovation, Community, Spirit, and the most used Twitter hashtag #gpab (though there have been many discussion on the preference of the #yqu airport code instead).

Lastly is ‘Al’s News’ (bottom right), a downtown newspaper/magazine/souvenir shop that has a very distinctive neon sign. I took the photo one day simply because I like the sign so much. Playing with some photoshop effects I really liked how it was coming along. Wanting to add some depth to the concept I visited my old employer, the Daily Herald Tribune, which has been the local newspaper here for 100 years. I went to the archives, grabbed a random book from each decade, photographed the most attractive headlines, and went from there.

I really enjoyed this project! I’m not from here but I find myself to have a lot of pride in Grande Prairie. Those keywords that I set out in ‘the 4-5’ all really ring true to me.

The shirts are printed locally by Playfair Athletics, on high quality American Apparel tshirts, in men’s and women’s sizes – small, medium and large (x sizes can be ordered) and retail at $30 each.

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Out Of Nothing

My friend Bill was inspired by a newspaper article covering the story of a graffiti project turned community fundraiser. I was driving westward through Quebec when my Twitter notification came through asking if I was interested in participating. Well, after 3 weeks of being exposed to the art scene in PEI, I was more than a little excited to bring something like that to Grande Prairie, Ab.

Bill, Dan (owner of the gallery below my studio loft) and I came up with the concept to host an outdoor art show in our downtown back alley during the busy weekend of our Street Performers Festival. Though we were rained out on Saturday, Sunday was a go, and what we would deem a success.

Out Of Nothing had an exclusive social media campaign, #outofnothing. Following the hashtag, you could follow our brainstorming in action on Twitter. Catching the attention of our newspaper and two radios stations, we ended up receiving an article with photo in the Daily Herald Tribune, and fairly constant airtime on Q99 and FreeFM 104.7 for the week leading up to the show. The City’s Crime Prevention team even donated all of the goods required for our graffiti wall. We had steady traffic before the show began.

Along with the free coverage we received through local media, word spread that we were looking for local artists interested in showing their work. 16 artists contributed their work, resulting in over 100 pieces of art. From paintings, to pottery, to photography and my own locally themed tshirt designs, variety is what we exhibited, to say the least.

Dan constructed our graffiti wall. Using 4 panels, measuring 96″x48″, he created a frame structure for support, and we ended up putting these into a cube shape. Each wall was divided into 4-24″x48″ panels, which are currently being auctioned off online, with profits going toward future community art projects. This interactive element was such a hit!

What started off with creative inspiration, combined with public participation, made for a event to be remembered. I was so grateful to be part of such a project, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we tackle next!
If you want to check out our auction, which closes tomorrow morning, you can find it on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/outofnothingarts

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