New community art projects brighten grey spaces

Hintonburgers Daniel Martelock and Craig O’Brian are making Kitchissippi a prettier place to be, one bird at a time. Photo by Ted Simpson

Art is not exactly a hard thing to find in Kitchissippi. From Richmond, to Wellington West, to Somerset, the entire strip is lined with murals, art galleries and studios. Many of the local cafes and bars also have a solid collection of local artwork on rotation.

Community art projects are steadily on the rise around these parts. It’s art that doesn’t belong to anyone, wasn’t made to be bought or sold, and exists for anyone and everyone to simply enjoy; a splash of colour to cut through a landscape of whites and greys.

The latest additions to the public’s collection are courtesy of Hintonburg painter Daniel Martelock. His work currently adorns the Bell telephone box at Wellington and Fairmont. It’s a colourful flock of his signature bird designs that take on a nearly holographic look under the right kind of light.

“I didn’t look like a Bell box cleaner, ripped jeans and spray cans, so I was kinda worried about bylaw officers and stuff when I started doing it,” says Martelock. “As I was doing it,” says Martelock. “As I was painting it people kept stopping and saying, ‘thank you’ and telling me how great it looked.”

The recently opened Rosemount branch of the Somerset West Community Health Centre features a large display of Martelock’s hand painted birdhouses that catch the eye as soon as you walk through the doors and continue up to the centre’s second floor. The installation is a joint project between Martelock and Hintonburg craftsman, Craig O’Brian. [story continues below photo]

The bird houses at the Rosemount branch of the Somerset West Community Health?Centre were very much “a communal project,” says Hintonburg artist Daniel Martelock. Photo by Ted Simpson

“It symbolizes the community and makes people think about how close we are to nature still,” says O’Brian. “I find a lot of people who live in the city can be detached from that – the bird house idea just reminds people to touch base with nature.”

“It took the whole summer,” says Martelock. “There were times when I would have friends in the art community, even family, come over to paint, prime and do some designs, it was very much a communal project.”

O’Brian crafted over 260 bird houses by hand from raw materials, then turned them over to Martelock to receive a custom paint job. Each one is unique, sporting designs of everything from pickles to dinosaurs to rabbits and trees. Just about anything you might imagine has made it onto a birdhouse here. There is even an interactive element, with buttons placed at child level that activate recorded, local bird sounds.

“A lot of art you see in galleries, you can’t walk up and touch it. We wanted this to be something the community could own, that they could touch and feel and approach,” says O’Brian.

“I don’t think they (SWCHC) were really expecting that scale,” says Martelock. “I think they were expecting a mural, and we took it up another notch.”

Rosemary Jones is the Resource Development Manager at the SWCHC. She says that local art is important for the centre’s visual design. She noted two more large pieces, one in the stairwell and one overlooking the waiting room, that come from the Enriched Bread Artists studio on Gladstone Avenue.

“The funny thing about this neighbourhood is there are a lot of artists here, and for every one that moves out, two move in,” says Martelock. “People are embracing the arts more in this neighbourhood than anywhere else I’ve seen.”

So what is the next public exhibit that Martelock and O’Brian have in mind? The answer isn’t so simple, “Everything, everything that’s not painted,” Martelock says.

“This city is crying out for more public art installations,” says O’Brian.

What do you think of these art installations? Let us know and your comments may appear in the next issue of KT.




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