As many of you know, RUE and Regina Downtown BID are just under a month away from hosting students through the U of R ArtCARES program. During reading week we are partnering to host a few students who will research and dream up ideas on how to better use vacant store spaces in the downtown – Pop-up parks? Art installations? Community classrooms? We want them to think of it all!
In the process of preparing for the project, and simply out of curiosity, I took some time to try mapping out all of the vacant store spaces in the downtown that I could remember (I also did a bit of peaking on Google Streetview). I included both spaces that I knew to be vacant in red, as well as street level spaces that were, in my view, under-used (i.e. blocked off or always with their blinds closed) – those are in yellow. This is obviously not a comprehensive or exhaustive list, and the ones in yellow are purely a judgement call. There are likely more that could be added to the under-used category, but they aren’t the main issue – vacant spaces are.
After doing up the map, there were more vacant store spaces downtown than I expected to find. I thought there would be about a dozen, but in reality it is closer to 30! Although this is not from an official listing, it’s still a strong indicator that we need to do something to fill in the gaps, liven up these spaces, and attract new businesses, events, and projects into the downtown. The ArtCARES project will be a good first step to start people thinking and brainstorming how to make these empty spaces attractive and productive again.
Looking at the bigger picture, RUE would obviously like to see some of the ideas students generate actually take shape once the initial project is complete – perhaps starting with a pilot project. For my money, I think artist windows are likely the best place to start as they don’t require the same level of resources or insurance that hosting an event would (hopefully those would follow soon after).
Art installations that rotate a few times a year can also do a lot to create a sense of intrigue and expose the general public to art outside of a gallery setting. They can be used to showcase up and coming artists, explore interesting content that may require 3D space, and, since they are temporary, they’re not bound to the limits of what is acceptable or desired for a permanent public art installation.
Artist windows and installations take many forms – images in a display window, installations that fill the entire store space with 3D objects, some are informative or driven by a particular cause, while others are quirky and interactive (seriously – check out this one, it’s cute).
While doing some research about art window programs in other cities, I discovered that I saw the product of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s ‘Art In Storefronts’ program! The photos in this post are from a piece entitled “Find Yourself In Natural History“. It’s a really big piece with images installed along a large stretch of boarded up storefront spaces. So depending on the space available and the artist’s interests, work may also be outside of a protected or secure space and act more like a mural. The possibilities for art installations are endless if cities are creative enough to look for them (and have property owners who agree to participate).
In keeping with my ongoing love affair with The Travellers‘ Building, I’d love to see a project like “Find Yourself In Natural History” be installed on that boarded-up space… that is, unless the owner agreed to remove the boards and let an exhibit actually fill the windows (now that would be ideal).
So – there’s a little update and some food for thought on our upcoming community project. I’m getting very excited to see what the students bring to the table in a few weeks!
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