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Tillsonburg Downtown BIA calls for BIPOC artists to design ‘public art benches’

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The Downtown Tillsonburg Business Improvement Area is calling for artists to help celebrate the community and downtown core through a ‘public art bench’ contest.

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“We saw this as an opportunity to use assets that we have, use a bit of funding from STEPS Public Art, and pay the artists to transform the (BIA) benches around the themes of eat, live, shop and explore in downtown Tillsonburg,” said Karlee Slattery, Events & Marketing co-ordinator, Downtown Tillsonburg BIA.

Artists are invited to fill out an application form, which can found at the BIA website (downtowntillsonburg.com/blog/callforartists).

The competition is open to visual and media artists who identify as Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour).

“The goal is to give a voice to people that have been historically not given that voice. So, especially with art, a lot of institutions in the past… the gatekeepers of those have not allowed certain voices, especially minorities, to be present there. So this public art is a way to give those people a voice because they are so important in our community, and to really represent who our community is.”

Through a community panel, including people from BIA businesses and board and the Station Arts Centre, the BIA will select two artists. Each will be asked to develop a design and execute the concept for four painted art benches.

“The whole thing is based around our downtown community, and we’re making sure that the selection committee represents that too.”

Applications will be accepted for another 1-2 weeks, said Slattery. Priority will be given to artists in the Tillsonburg (Tri-County) area. The project is expected to be complete by the end of August.

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Selected artists will each receive $1,000 and have a budget for materials up to $500 per artist.

Each of the eight refurbished benches will be distributed in the Downtown BIA area ‘to create an art path from one end of the core to the other.’

“It’s a way to refurbish these benches and get them out there and create spaces for people to sit down, rest, and contribute to the economic development downtown.”

Locations will be determined after the project is completed.

“We want to see if the stories and the ideas that these artists might connect to certain places downtown,” said Slattery. “We just want to see what the community can come up with and how they can tell the story of Tillsonburg and our downtown. And whether that’s the past or what it’s going to look like in the future… we want to reflect that.”

The commissioned art benches (which were made from 10 boards, five feet by eight inches by 2.75 inches) are expected to incorporate the following themes: eat, shop, live, explore in downtown Tillsonburg, preferably in BIA theme colours.

“We’re really leaving this up to the artists’ interpretation. We’re really open to any ideas.

“We’ve seen other communities do this and we are hoping this will be the pilot project (in Tillsonburg).”

The BIA has more benches that could become public art in the future.

“It’s very open-ended right now, but we want to get the ball rolling and maybe, eventually – because we have so many benches and this is a pilot project – we would love to open it up to more people in our community,” said Slattery.

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“This really is the beginning of what can happen for public art downtown.”

GRAPHIC ARTIST

The BIA is also looking for a graphic artist to design sidewalk decals that will tie the public art together and encourage the community to ‘explore the core.’ The idea is to have one design concept for each BIA brand colour. The selected graphic artist will receive $500 and Downtown Tillsonburg BIA will print the high-resolution decals.

Project partners including RBC Royal Bank, City of Toronto, Canada Council for the Arts, and Ontario Arts Council will be recognized on the activation site.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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