Residents are invited to re-imagine Yellowknife through a collaborative art project at Centre Square Mall this week.
Led by community and urban planner Sara Udow and visual artist Jennie Suddick, an empty office in the mall is home to a weeklong public art project made primarily from white paper and masking tape.
Together, Udow and Suddick form the Crazy Dames Collaborative, a term once used by male peers to describe legendary Toronto urban planner Jane Jacobs.
Jacobs is perhaps most famous for successfully leading a movement to halt construction of a express highway through Toronto’s historic Annex neighbourhood in the early 1960s.
“Her whole idea was that urban planners, at the time in the 1960s and often now still, just plan areas without asking people or asking for their involvement,” said Udow. “She was all about grassroots community involvement.”
The pair have been brought to Yellowknife from Toronto by the Yellowknife Artist Run Community Centre as this year’s This City V artist residency.
Organizer Katie O’Beirne explained the project is meant to get Yellowknife thinking about urban design.
“We hope to engage folks enough so that there are take-aways, tacit take-aways,” she said. “We’ve been talking about this sort of thing with this residency for five years and we’re just going to keep talking. Hopefully we see results.”
To get the creative juices flowing, Udow and Suddick posed a number of questions to the 30 Yellowknifers gathered Monday evening at the opening night of the art project.
Participants were asked what an ideal city would look like. Ideas included dog-friendly indoor public spaces, more benches, a ban on cars and places where art can be made without bureaucratic hurdles. Those gathered also shared their thoughts on which parts of town they would like to see improved, including more access to the waterfront, putting empty downtown office buildings into use and more public spaces in the areas of Range Lake and the Multiplex.
After the discussion, they were invited to add their own flourishes to the art project.
During the day, schools and other groups will be taking workshops, and at night the public is invited to take part. The space is open to the public tonight and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Looking ahead to the weekend, the space will be jam-packed with events, including a singing circle with Mary Kelly, a screening of short films curated by Western Arctic Moving Pictures, yoga with Bronwyn Rorke and highlights from the Dene Nahjo urban hide tanning camp with Melaw Nakehk’o.
For those who want to delve deeper into community planning and art, a workshop on creative placemaking will be held Oct. 10 at 2:30 p.m.