In a previous blog, I spoke of the basic history of the reclamation of a parkette along the west bank of the Welland recreational Canal, and its transformation into Guerrilla Park. This reclaimed space would not be possible were it not for the efforts of various volunteers from all parts of the community, especially the artistic.
There are many different people who have not only contributed efforts to reclaim and maintain this space, but also frequent this park. I have personally seen many people visit the park of all ages and backgrounds, including many visitors from outside the area that have patronized the nearby restaurant, Taris by the Water: some of these patrons I’ve had the pleasure of having discussion with that have visited from nearby Hamilton and even Toronto, have remarked on the beauty of this space, as well as the art that is in place there.
Much of the art is the result of individual artists who have often found much inspiration from the setting they find in such an environment: a beautiful view of Welland’s downtown cityscape, artistic embellishments of the area (such as painted tire planters, benches, and walls), as well as the many artists and musicians that frequent the area. It is not rare to for one to find a guitarist playing music at all times of the day and evening, photographers capturing images of the scenery, or artists working on artwork. It has also been the site of a few impromptu art shows and planned events, such as the Art at the Park shows held over this past summer. The reclamation of the park, as well as much of the art that is being produced and displayed there, is organic in nature and purely voluntary in effort and the contribution of resources, as opposed to a planned imitative that is dependent on funding from outside sources, such as government sources.
With the attention that Guerrilla Park has received locally, either through the media, social media, or through word of mouth, this public space is also now recognized on Google as a place, and therefore shows some success as a placemaking experiment. Though it is not without its problems that would face any public space (such as vandalism), these few negative experiences do not deter nor discourage the many who not only contribute to the maintenance of this public space, but the many more who frequent it.
The question has arisen among a few who volunteered their artistic and physical efforts of the possibility of some sort of protection of this space, specifically as a “public arts park”: a proposed co-operative project between the City of Welland and the individual artists/volunteers that frequent and contribute to this space. Since this strip of land along the waterway is presumably owned by the municipality, and was apparently maintained either by city workers or employees of the WRCC until a few years ago, it has since been maintained by these same voluntary efforts at no cost to taxpayers, and has so far received no financial contributions of any sort, other than out-of-pocket minor expenses that are also voluntary. As well, it should be noted that “develop[ing] new public spaces for Arts and Culture is listed in the Municipal Arts and Culture Policy’s goals)for the City of Welland, and it also applies to the Guiding Principle of “Arts and Culture mak[ing] a significant contribution to the quality of life and vitality of the community” (from Section 1.4 of the policy) through engagement of arts and the public. As well, by designating this area as a public arts park, it creates a partnership between the City of Welland and regular citizens, therefore furthering this engagement of the community. Such a partnership may include the sharing of resources and efforts, as well as establishing an area as a “public arts park” of which there are very few examples of in North America, except for mentions I have found of somewhat similar ideas (though not as organic and directly engaging) in Calgary and Atlanta. It is also felt that such designation may in some ways “protect” this public space from further neglect in the future, and that the specter of apparent abandonment in the future by the municipality will be discouraged. Finally, it is felt among many who have discussed this idea that such designation will not only bring attention this community public space to the individuals of this community, but elsewhere as well through promotion (as is already being done through social media not only by the volunteers of the park, but by the Downtown Welland BIA also) as an organic and engaging public space for the community to not only enjoy, but contribute to as well.