FAQS: Adsum Park Community Public Art Project

An on-site information session with WAC and City Staff took place on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at Adsum Park. Kate MacKay, Program Officer for the Urban Design Division of the City of Winnipeg, and Tricia Wasney, Manager of Public Art for the Winnipeg Arts Council, gave an overview of the call to artists and took questions. The following is a summary of the Q & As.

Tricia Wasney: The idea of this project is that it’s an extremely collaborative one. The artist will be working directly with the community to devise some kind of seating and other elements as it makes sense coming out of discussions with the community. The resulting piece can either be a piece made by the artist with the input of the community or a piece that’s made collaboratively between the artist and the community, or made by the community under the direction of the artist. If you haven’t already, I suggest that you read through the call-to-artists before you think about applying, as the guidelines of what we’re looking for are made clear in it.

Kate MacKay: There is a seating area already here, but the way that it is laid out is such that only one group at a time may use it. The Councillor for the area was getting some complaints that there wasn’t enough seating, and that moms were taking their kids to the park and not really having anywhere to sit. And specifically women have nowhere to sit. The profile of people who gather in the seating area is generally men, which is positive as it’s nice to have a free outdoor gathering space, but once they’re here there’s nowhere else to sit. And it’s a huge area. The Councillor believes it would be nice to collaborate with some of the females in the community and find out what they’re looking for in a seating area.

There are two benches at the park already but they’re older, and they do not now meet current accessibility standards. So there is this idea to create a new seating area to make the park more enjoyable. This has become a community hub, and we have done some work here in the past. Part of this work is being funded by the Building Communities Initiative, and one of our other initiatives was to improve the paving surface at the back – create tennis courts and do a bit of upgrade there. Another exciting initiative is that Seven Oaks Pool is going to have an indoor spray pad and we’re working right now to get the plans together for that. The idea is to make this a space where people can meet for free or participate in affordable activities.

 We have a huge user group here – we have an arena, tennis courts, the Maples Community Centre, the pool and the high school. So this area really is a community hub. 

So all the sports fields are taken care of? The area we’d be working on isn’t needed as a sports area? Are you wanting to keep the space large and open?

We’re open to exploring that idea. That’s where this community component comes in, talking with the community and finding out how they’re using the space right now. There are opportunities such as the large berms which already exist here, which you don’t really get an idea of until you see the park. They create a seating area in themselves, so it’s good to look at those opportunities and find out how the community is using the site. We know a little bit from what the Councillor has told us, but it will be important to be in the site, viewing its use, and speaking with community members. 

Who would set these meetings up and where will they take place?

We’re developing community contacts right now, so that by the time the artist is hired we’ll have a set of community contacts that will be able to help with the project. The meetings will take place in the neighbourhood. For instance, the high school is a good meeting spot as it is very close to the park. There is a tight turnaround time so we’ve strategized about how we’ll prepare the community for the artist coming in, so that when the artist is selected, we’ve already made connections with people in the area who can direct us to those who can garner interest in the project. We don’t want the artist to have to spend a lot of time tracking people down. Community engagement in itself is a lot of work but a very important part of the project. The Councillor has offered to have translation services at the meeting as well.

We’re asking for seating and other elements, as they might be developed, but don’t be scared off by that if you’re an artist who hasn’t worked with construction before. We’re expecting that some of the fee will go towards somebody doing design drawings or whatever else might be needed. If you have that capability, that’s great, but we’re expecting that the budget would use the services of an engineer, and possibly a designer to help make drawings, etc. And we have background information of the site, so we have survey plans and other components to provide them with to help make that job a bit easier.

The reason we’re not looking for a proposal is because we want the design to come out of that community conversation, and to really find out what the community here needs and wants. We’ve been talking to a teacher at the Maples Collegiate because sometimes the best way to reach a parent is through their kids, who maybe have more involvement with art in school. We’re not necessarily thinking of this as a youth project but it’s one way we thought we might make some inroads into the community as well.

And it’s not just community consultation. It’s also figuring out how the space is being used, observing people. June will be a great time to do that, and that will be when the artist has been selected.

Can a group of artists apply together?

You can apply as a team, within reasonable limits. Two is probably fine, seven is maybe too much. If you wanted to apply as a single person but have a team behind you but you’re the leader, that’s fine. There has to be one person that is the community’s contact because you really need to establish trust and continuity right away with a community. And that’s difficult with a larger group.

Is it a juried process?

Yes. The jury will consist of people from the community, artists, and people from the City who have some knowledge of the site. Usually five people. 

So which area of the park is it exactly?

You can tell from the site plan on our website the area which it encompasses. And the exact placement will be a collaboration with the City too. We’re not just going to plunk it down somewhere it doesn’t make sense, it will be a discussion with the City and WAC and the community. It’s a big area to consider and there will be lots of support in terms of landscape architecture, site drawings, etc.

It’s a really good opportunity for someone to do a project of this type because there will be a lot of support behind you and if you haven’t built something like this before it will be an easier process.

What would the landscape architect’s role be?

We assume you will need to hire a landscape architect for the design stage; someone to help with design drawings and siting within the landscape. But that costs money, so you would have to be prudent with how much to involve them.

So there are two components to the project? Seating and public art? The sculptural elements are to incorporate seating?

The seating is the public art. It’s all public art. We would certainly look at an incorporation of seating and sculpture. The selected artist will be communicating with the community and trying to figure out what’s best, and then come back to us with a proposal of what came out of the discussions. That will probably require some tweaking and negotiation, depending on what it is, but we’re open to all kinds of ideas that are inclusive and safe. 

When are you hoping to have it all done by? 

By the fall. So it is a tight turnaround. The timeline is on page 3 of the call-to-artists. We want to get it done this summer, so that’s why we’re creating these public engagement opportunities before the artist starts, so that they can really get going as soon as they’re selected.    

Can updating accessibility of existing elements of the park be part of the project?

We won’t be updating those components right now. But anything the artist does will have to adhere to the City’s Accessibility Design Standards, and we can help integrate that into the design. The standard is great in that it allows for different interventions to make it better, and it’s an interesting design process because you look at it through the eyes of somebody else. 

Would the landscape architect component also involve actual landscaping and putting more trees and nature components in? 

It could be part of the intervention, there is a fair budget. We can look at the design ideas and maybe forestry can come and add some trees. If that’s a request, we can look at it, but really the artist can focus on their ideas and we can help integrate that in, even after the fact if that’s necessary. Four of the trees existing on the site are dying, so they won’t be here long. Trees could be a nice component and it could be something the artist does a bit of and then possibly the City follows up with more after. 

How well would we need to know how to budget these things?

You’ll have help. When you’re preparing your budget you won’t be expected to hand it in complete and that’s it. It will be a conversation. There will be a back-and-forth with all of us. 

If you have any more questions about this project and the application process, please contact Alexis Kinloch, Public Art Projects Coordinator at the Winnipeg Arts Council, by telephone, 204-943-7668 or by email, alexis@winnipegarts.ca