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Pop-up art to enliven downtown square during Sechelt's Festival of Lights

Amplify Space public art project is coming to Sechelt
Left to right: Amplify Space collaborators M. Simon Levin, Brett Jasch, Jill Hemmings, Paula Galloway and Nadina Tandy at the location of forthcoming pop-up art installations.

A group of Sunshine Coast artists will transform an urban street corner into a vibrant public piazza over two days during Sechelt’s upcoming Festival of Lights. 

The Amplify Space initiative was the brainchild of Jill Hemmings, who formerly worked in the parks department at the City of Vancouver.  

“I really like public art,” said Hemmings, “and was inspired by [Canadian television documentary series] The Life-Sized City. It made me think about how to make cities more livable, slowing down to enjoy the city you live in.” 

Hemmings obtained grant funding from the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of B.C. and the Vancouver Foundation. With input from the Sunshine Coast Arts Council (whose communications assistant Emily Picard designed the event’s poster), she selected a site at the corner of Wharf Avenue and Cowrie Street.  

Adjacent to Sechelt’s Bank of Montreal branch, the location has a concrete-ringed tree at its centre and low-slung benches on the periphery. 

“This is a really interesting intersection,” added Hemmings, “and I asked what would happen if we had a plaza here that people could come and sit in to connect with other people.” 

Hemmings contacted five local artists and invited them to create original works exploring issues related to social interaction. 

“My piece is pretty playful,” said Paula Galloway, whose Tired Ocean Garden installation will use sculpted and relief elements to reflect Sechelt’s aquatic setting. “It is designed to attract children so that families can sit together. That’s my goal — to make something that’s family-friendly.” 

M. Simon Levin, the co-director of the Coppermoss retreat and art residency centre in Tuwanek, devised an artwork featuring copper tubing and multiple faucets to provoke questions about a public commodity in increasingly short supply.  

“It’s about the fact that we all have this issue locally here around water,” Levin said. “One of the things that we often do in facilitation and mediation is identify ideas through questions. We’re not here to provide answers or solutions, but to get to the deeper questions. I want people to start asking deep questions [about water].” 

Collage artist Nadina Tandy plans to erect the life-sized figure of Hoo Hoo, a character she originally created from repurposed 1950s-era magazine photographs. “It’s important to bring the art to the people,” she said. “Hoo Hoo invites the community to engage in the public space, to reexamine their surroundings with pride and to perhaps put a smile on their face.” 

Hemmings hopes that the pop-up event will encourage pedestrians to linger longer in Sechelt’s downtown core, possibly prompted by merchants claiming sidewalks for bistro-style seating. The Sechelt Downtown Business Association has already signed on as a supporter of the Amplify vision. 

Brett Jasch, a teacher at Chatelech Secondary School, designed an installation to challenge visitors about alienated urban populations. At its centre, chairs marked “Strangers Only” are designated for people who do not know each other. The physical proximity of sitters will prompt conversation and connections. 

“The unhoused [and] the unwell are easy targets for ‘othering,’ said Jasch. “I anticipate people being anxious, because this is participatory. Community is the solution. We cannot ‘other’ those we know.” 

Muralist Dean Schutz will use interactive games he calls “artistic interventions” to encourage visitors to pause and learn. 

The Amplify Space installations will be accessible on Friday, Dec. 2 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Its location is steps from the Festival of Lights parade route.