Public art hopes to unify community in a low-income suburb

HALIFAX – Spryfield’s public spaces aren’t often associated with art. In many people’s minds, the suburban neighbourhood is associated with violence, graffiti tags, and low-income housing projects, but that could be all the more reason to make art in the community, says Miro Davis, a Spryfield-based artist.

“You hear about it,” she says. “You hear all these stories about it, all this trouble…all the problems.” Yet Davis strongly believes that art – and particularly community art – has great power to bring together people and space in a visual way.

“Introducing something that is a spectacular process, that’s happening in a place that has a rough reputation, shows the beauty in that particular place,” she says.

Davis has been commissioned to involve the community in a public art project, which will be called Water Falls — a 15-foot-tall project of plastic, metal, and lighting. The project is going to be installed in the Captain William Spry community centre.

Davis is going out into the community to work with seniors, youth, children, and adults on this project. Every participant will form a water drop shape out of clay, using as much artistic license on the concept of “water” as he or she desires. The fist-sized clay shapes will then be used as moulds. Davis will pour recycled plastic over them until she’s left with hundreds of large, clear plastic “water drops.”

The drops will be hung together from silver tubing in a wave formation. Davis intends to run lights inside the tubing and drill holes at intervals along the tube. “So the light will come out in certain areas and illuminate the water droplets that are hanging off of it, these forms that everybody has personalized and made,” she says.

The piece will be displayed prominently on the wall inside the community centre. Davis hopes that when people come into the centre, the piece will wow them. “When you have a good idea, a correlation between material, site specificity, and the people and the artist – when that all jives together, it’s a very strong statement that happens,” she says.

The statement tells members of the community that this space is valued and deserves to be beautiful. Davis remembers the community centre before the renovation. There have been many improvements and it looks a lot better now. Davis hopes that Water Falls will continue to remind residents of that theme.

“It seems if you spend enough time and make something that’s pretty precious and pretty spectacular, what happens is people end up congregating around that, respecting it, leaving it, and doing their thing and leaving it alone,” she says. “It becomes part of their family. It’s interesting. It’s a really positive way to deal with a problem area.”

Davis has created other art projects with Spryfield youth in the past, and she notes that when they see the finished product, there’s a great sense of pride. Creating a small, individualized piece of a public space brings a sense of ownership in that space. This feeling is particularly strong when the young artists didn’t feel any sense of belonging beforehand.

“The ownership of everybody coming to the place to say, ‘I did that, I made that, oh cool, look at it all put together,’ and feeling like you were part of something bigger – it really does it,” she says.

“It’s waking people up to see that and respect a place because of what’s happening there.”

photo by Shaina Luck

One comment

  1. I grew up near Belfast N.Ireland. Having lived the last 15yrs in Sprayfield, I see a community getting stronger.

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