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BOB'S BLOG: Orillia builds community through street art

By Bob Wood
Blogs Slideshow
November 25, 2013 - 86 comments

I’m a community worker by training, orientation and occupation.

Rightly or wrongly, on most days I look at the world through that lens. 

Communities are places, of course. But they are not just geographic entities. Communities are much more. They are where we come together and act as social beings. They can be places of strength where we can grow individually and collectively. We should all be working to build stronger communities. 

Streets Alive Orillia Letters of Orillia, an outdoor street art project, is a vehicle for such a process. 

My wife Karen and I spend time in the Orillia area and stumbled on this program over the summer. Actually, stumbled isn’t quite the right word. It was right there on Orillia’s main drag, Mississaga Street, occupying several blocks, running down past the historic Orillia Opera House and spilling over onto Peter Street.

This was the fifth of these events. How had we missed it before?

It seems that each year there is a different theme to the street art.

Last year it was Leacock Chairs. Art was created from handcrafted metal chairs that were modelled on the famous author and humourist’s reading and writing chair.

In 2010, seven-foot tall fibreglass guitars were used. The 2011 event featured eight-foot sail panels made of a polycarbonate sheets and supported on a hull of scrolled iron and placed on a concrete pedestal.

This year it was letters. Thirty-two of them. Fabricated by artist and sign maker Ron Schell, the 20-gauge sheet metal letters stood six feet in height and weighed about 200 pounds.

Well in advance artists had submitted a template to judges. Selected artists then went ahead and beautified their letter.

Winners were selected by a combination of “People’s Choice” voting and juried art rankings, toward the end of August. At the annual Starry Night Gallery and Studio Tour significant cash awards were announced.

While it is billed as an outdoor street art project, it is obviously much more than that.

Certainly, the project must enhance the artistic community in the Orillia area. But it also clearly brings a community together. It is a community building experience.

The Orillia Streets Alive 2014 event is called Art Grows here. The medium will be planter boxes. 

I’m looking forward to it.

Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie. 

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