Culture Counts plans to bring more public art to Oshawa

Catherine Richards stands on the left of a large poster labelled
Photo by Keisha Slemensky

Catherine Richards and Marnie Mandel in front of the Public Arts poster in Oshawa

Culture Counts is giving the power to the people.

As a part of its Public Arts Master Plan, the city of Oshawa gave the community a chance to choose locations for public art pieces. The next steps in the plan are now underway.

The Public Arts Master Plan is a city-wide plan to put more public art pieces around Oshawa. It’s part of the overall Culture Counts initiative.

The first steps to the plan included pop-up events and public art cafés that offered interactive activities for the public to participate in.

The activities included a map of Oshawa where community members could place stickers on areas they want to see art and a place to write about different ways art affects lives.

The map was the most popular activity and was brought to both the cafés and pop-up events.

Although the community is excited to see more art in Oshawa, based on the number of stickers on the map, the plan still has a long way to go before it’s implemented. With the information and data taken from the events, Culture Counts and the Public Arts Task Force will work together to create a report for city council to evaluate in June of this year.

“(The plan) is not a given right now,” said supervisor of cultural development, Catherine Richards. “Hopefully the work that we’ve done to demonstrate all of the interest from the community will provide some good, quality information to go into the June report.”

As important as it is to follow structure, in plans like this, she says community engagement is equally important.

“(Community involvement) is fundamental to our work,” said Richards. “Whether…we’re doing community engagement sessions or whether it’s just conversations with individuals within the community, we’re in constant consultation.”

Some trends and popular locations have revealed themselves through these events.

“The downtown core has been an interest to a lot of people because they see public art as a means to revitalize the area,” said cultural development coordinator, Marnie Mandel.

Other popular locations have been bike trails, public parks and the most popular, the waterfront area.

The plan is to be finalized in the late spring or early summer and be given to city council in June, but this is just the beginning.

“Most public art projects take one to five years to develop because of the costs associated with it and the very democratic process for which public art is selected,” said Mandel. She said the art sites will also need adjustments to make them capable of handling the art.

If the plan is approved, Richards said there will be a huge opportunity for local artists.

“Our approach would be that we would do a call for artists saying this a location we’re looking for art to go,” she said. “The artist (will) submit proposals then, (Culture Counts) will have a selection process in collaboration with the Public Arts Task Force.”

Although the online survey and events are now over, Richards urges people to get engaged. “Sign up to our newsletter, we want to hear from people,” she said. “If you have an idea, send us an e-mail at Don’t be shy, come to us with ideas!”