By Casey Bolton
The massive and controversial renewal of Elgin Street over the next 18 months — which has cast a cloud over business on the busy commercial strip — will include a silver lining for art lovers: a $150,000 fund for public art and a competition to select an artist-in-residence to design and install a major creative project for the area.
The City of Ottawa’s Public Art Program is inviting artists to submit applications to tap the $150,000 that has been earmarked for the design and installation of artwork.
“Public art for the Elgin Street Renewal project will integrate visually significant elements that provide identity and distinctive character to the street,” said Melissa Black, public art officer for the City of Ottawa .
The call to artists is part of the Elgin area renewal project that began in March. The renewal seeks to update the aging infrastructure in the area and improve the overall quality of the street.
The redesign for the street will include wider sidewalks, reduced but more flexible on-street parking and improved road structure and signage.
Artists interested in the program will have to submit an expression of interest, resume and samples of past work by April 23. They will later be evaluated by a peer assessment committee. Artists who proceed past this stage will have to develop a plan for their proposed artwork and gain approval from the community.
“The artwork should be conceptually and visually innovative,” Black said. “It should reflect a thorough and sensitive understanding of place, context and setting.”
Potential art locations along Elgin that have been chosen for the project include the intersections with Lisgar Street and Gilmour Street, as well as Minto Park.
The design and construction of the artwork is expected to start in 2019 and finish by summer 2020. The artist’s residency will end with the artwork’s installation.
Since construction on Elgin began, there have been concerns raise by some in the business community about the public’s impeded access to restaurants and stores along the street. But others are upbeat about the transformational potential of the project.
“Don’t be afraid, everything has been organized, businesses are open as usual,” said Hala Boushey of the Elgin Area Business Association.
Boushey is familiar with the many changes Elgin area has seen over the years. Her family owned the long-time Elgin institution Boushey’s, a grocery that closed last summer.
“We’ve had no issues with the construction and we are hoping this continues,” said Boushey.
Boushey has been involved with the Elgin Street renewal project since its proposal. She said she’s hoping whoever is chosen for artist-in-residence will do something fun with the street’s benches.
Elgin area resident Katie Mclean is looking forward to seeing what the artist develops.
“I hope they do something colorful,” said the 20-year-old student.
No matter what is chosen, Boushey said, she’s confident it will only improve the public’s attraction to the street.
“Elgin will always be vibrant,” she said.