Arts Commission calls for submissions for Poetry Sidewalk ProjectWritten by Sanya Ali | | email@example.com
Upcoming changes to Collingwood Boulevard sidewalks will be more than another layer of tan pavement.
The Arts Commission is planning a large-scale public art project for the street and is calling for submissions to ensure the walkway is filled with original poems.
Nathan Mattimoe, arts in public places coordinator for The Arts Commission, said the idea for sidewalk art is modeled after a similar public art project in St. Paul, Minn.
“They have a really cool slightly different project, not even in the application, but the way they spread them throughout their city,” Mattimoe said. “We’re slowly experimenting with that and see how far we can take it and see how far we can spread that around the city.”
In the St. Paul version of the project, the commission in charge created stamps out of the original poems to apply upon existing sidewalks.
Mattimoe said he wants passersby to take in each of the poems and experience the city through the eyes of the poet.
“We like the element of just kind of walking down the street and unexpectedly coming across these poems and having that moment of whimsy or whatever that poem expresses through day-to-day life,” Mattimoe said.
Ryan Bunch, performing and literary arts coordinator for The Arts Commission, said he wants Toledo’s art and literacy to gain deserved recognition.
“For the public, I want them to be aware of our excellent public art program — the first in the state — and to be aware of the strong literary arts heritage that Toledo holds,” Bunch said in an email. “There is a strong community of writers here that goes back decades.”
The Arts Commission is in Phase III of its artist-designed bike racks initiative and the number of submissions for that project makes Mattimoe optimistic for Phase II of the sidewalk art project.
“We had a great turnout [in Phase I] and I expect this time around they’re going to double,” Mattimoe said.
Phase I installed five poems, chosen from 70 submissions, themed around the Great Lakes near the National Great Lakes Museum in the Marina District in the East Toledo.
“We are selecting 10 poems for this round,” Bunch said. “Given the placement along Collingwood Boulevard, we chose a looser theme of neighborhoods, pedestrian experience, architecture, things that relate to the neighborhood in the Old West End.”
Mattimoe said there are many advantages to the project.
“This is another example of giving more access to public art projects, for one,” he said. “And, for local artists, to give them more tools in their tool kits so they can grow and build larger projects and expand their skill set.”
Public art, Mattimoe said, should give both the artists and viewers a better sense of where they live.
“Art gives people identity,” he said. “It gives them a sense of biography, a sense of ownership, whether it’s their art they create or art that’s placed in their community. Public art should really tell a story about where that art is and the people that live there.”
Besides sidewalk art, The Arts Commission has its hand in some major citywide projects that will extend beyond the art world.
“We have a large-scale mural we’re working on that will be painted on the Parks Department maintenance building which faces I-280 right before the split,” Mattimoe said.
The commission just recently narrowed the submissions for that project down from 137 to three finalists. Those three will present proposals later this month.
The Arts Commission is also working with city engineers, the Warehouse District and others regarding the Gateway Project, with a focus on redesigning the exit ramp onto Erie Street leading into Downtown Toledo.
“We’re tasked with finding an artists or artist team to put on the design and infrastructure team,” Mattimoe said. “Landscaping, lighting, seating or communal areas; we’re not exactly sure what this is going to look like but it’s been a priority to have an artist be part of this project and to give a more artistic way of approaching everyday infrastructure.”
Mattimoe said his goal is better awareness of the neighborhood.
“This is not plopping a couple thousand dollar sculpture on a roundabout,” Mattimoe said. “We’re hoping it’s something people want to go out and seek and experience them and at the same time experience the neighborhood that they’re in and really get a better understanding of what that community is about.”
Bunch said the Poetry Sidewalks Project is unique and he hopes people enjoy it.
“Of all the arts, writing is probably the least public,” Bunch said. “So I think this is exciting on that level. I also want the community to really enjoy these works. This is a special program that isn’t offered in many cities. I hope the works bring people joy in their daily routines and inspire them to read, write, think or live more fully.”
The deadline for poetry submission is July 29. Poems must be appropriate for a public setting and between eight and 40 lines long. Winners will be notified by early August.
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