This is my last blog post of 2011, and I’m going to finish off the year with an inspiring Good News story. I just heard about the ‘Art Train’ project last week, and I think it’s such an amazing example of what is possible in Toronto when creative minds come together.
Remember the Art Bike project last summer? A couple of artists from OCAD painted an abandoned bicycle hot pink, and then stirred up a storm of controversy when the City asked them to remove the bike.
Two weeks later, City Council voted in favour of supporting the artists and allowing them to install seventy neon ‘art bikes’ all across Toronto.
Now, inspired by the success of the Art Bike project, the TTC has announced the Art Train project. The idea is simple: abandoned LRT trains will be placed across the City, painted in bright neon colours. The sites will be located along the cancelled routes of Transit City.
Art Train at Jane & Finch
It’s been just over a month since the Fourth Wall exhibit launched at the Urban Space Gallery, and I can’t tell you how inspired and amazed I am by the public response. I knew that a handful of municipal geeks would be into it, and some long-time urban activists… but I didn’t expect a non-stop flow of students, civil servants, politicians, journalists, etc.
I’ve been leading tours through the exhibit, almost daily. And each group brings with them a different point of view and different suggestions/questions. And no matter what their age, or background, or career, they all seem genuinely interested in the subject matter – even the students who are forced to be there!
10) For those who ride bikes, we know how dangerous our streets feel each day. Only with a unified voice can we create safe space and transform the city.
9) It only costs $2.50 per month. Is your health and safety worth the price?
8) Starting last week, bike lanes were being removed by constructions crews on Pharmacy and Birchmount – against the advice of city staff. Jarvis is the next scheduled removal.
(Note: I did an interview on CBC about this issue on Oct 7. Listen here)
When Dundas Square was proposed, and public concern was raised about the proliferation of annoying LED billboards in the city we were told not to worry. “This is ONLY for Dundas Square”, we were told. “We won’t allow huge electronic billboards in other areas of the city”.
Well, guess what? Once again, the incremental intrusion of the Outdoor Advertising industry is about to take a huge leap forward – and it’s NOT in Dundas Square.
What a horrible way to begin my birthday. Just as midnite was approaching last night, I received a message in my inbox: “Construction crews have begun to remove the bike lanes on Pharmacy Avenue”.
I’m excited about Nuit Blanche tonight. It’s a really fun concept, and that’s why so many cities around the world have duplicated the dusk-to-dawn festival. There many different names for it, like “La Noche En Blanco” or “Balta Nakts”, but they all have one thing in common: None of these cities have named their arts festival after a corporate sponsor. Oh, except Toronto. Continue reading
Submission from Iva Jericevic. Click for larger image.
~ DESIGNERS: Public call for submissions! ~
Deadline: October 7
Last year I delivered a TED talk about civic engagement, where I attempted to redefine the word apathy as a “complex web of cultural barriers that perpetuates disengagement”, rather than some kind of incurable internal syndrome.
One message in my presentation was that our local governments could do a much much better job promoting civic engagement and public participation in the decision-making process.
I pointed out that Toronto’s public consultation notices look like this:
click for larger image
Then I suggested that Nike would look pretty silly if they used the same approach for their ads:
UPDATE: Our Research Day on Aug 3rd was an amazing success. Thanks to all who attended!! We’re hosting a SECOND day, on Tuesday August 30th. 10am. Hope you can make it!
I’d like to invite you to a research party next week at the Toronto Archives. I would happily do the research myself, but there are TEN BOXES of materials to go through and document. I can’t do this alone, so I need your help.
What are we documenting, you ask?
Well, I’ve always thought that Toronto would benefit from some sort of independent fact-finding organisation that reported to the public on civic affairs. Then, a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this:
Last week, hundreds of citizens in Toronto attended a special meeting of Rob Ford’s Executive Committee. Speaking for three minutes each, and lasting a record-breaking 21 hours, almost every single message had a common theme: please protect Toronto’s public services. It was a resounding rejection of the mayor’s Tea Party approach to economics (ie: governments should only provide roads and cops).
The infamous “Ford Nation” was nowhere in sight. There was no army of citizens asking for smaller government, or lower taxes. Sadly, instead of listening and acknowledging the rejection, members of Ford’s inner circle shamefully tried to discredit these passionate citizens.