Downtown BIA hosts free events to help shape the future of public art in Stratford

The Downtown Stratford BIA is hosting four free arts activities in downtown Stratford on Saturday to engage residents and visitors in developing a public art plan for the town.

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Residents and visitors to Stratford will have the opportunity to help the Stratford Town Center Business Improvement Area shape the future of public art in the town through several free art events in downtown Stratford. Stratford on Saturday.

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The BIA recently hired award-winning Toronto consultancy STEPS Public Art to help the organization develop a cohesive and comprehensive public art plan for Stratford.

“The BIA as an organization has decided to hire STEPS as a consultant to help us develop and plan public art for Stratford town centre,” said BIA President Pamela Coney Beare. “So it’s a long process and ultimately the plan will have a vision of what public art might look like in Stratford because we really don’t have anything like that.”

Although there have been a number of public art installations established in and around Stratford town center over the years, Coneybeare said getting council and town approval can be difficult. because there really isn’t a streamlined process for public art in particular.

“So the plan will contain guidelines in this regard. It will contain recommendations. It will provide opportunities and examples of what future projects in Stratford might look like based on all the information collected by STEPS during various (engagement) processes along the way,” said Coneybeare.

So far, STEPS has met with a number of interested groups to begin laying the groundwork and gathering information, thoughts and opinions on the future of public art in Stratford. As part of this strategy, the BIA, STEPS and local artists will host four free Saturday arts events throughout Stratford town center to creatively engage year-round residents and seasonal visitors in the development of this plan.

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“This phase is the part where they reach the community and the general public,” Coneybeare said. “Everyone is allowed to get involved and give their opinion through these activities. They also involve surveys, so (STEPS is) the collection of data as well as the participation of people in activities. So they’ll be asking people questions, filling out anonymous surveys, and the questions will kind of lead to different activities along the way. So one of the activities itself will actually be an artistic representation of the information collected.

Held in conjunction with this weekend’s World in a Weekend music and puppet festival, arts activities will include the creation of a collective Color Your Future community mural with local artist Claire Scott on one of the wooden cabins du BIA on the market square from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. pm; a Weave Your Voice community weaving art project near the Veterans Drive bandstand from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; a Public Art Significance sculptural activity at the Tir na nOg gate next to the downtown CIBC from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and a more performing arts-style Play for Public Art activity hosted by a Toronto comedian and improv actor, also at the Tir na nOg gate, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

Each of these activities will be held in a walk-in format and everyone is welcome to participate. For more event details or to pre-register for event reminders and updates, visit stepspublicart.org/register-stratford-community-activities.

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With that feedback and with more focused focus groups scheduled for September, Coneybeare said she expects to have a draft of the public art plan ready to present to council or committee by the end of October. However, she noted that Stratford councilors may not be able to review the plan until the start of council’s new term after the October municipal election.

“I think the council is also talking about cultural planning now,” Coneybeare said. “We didn’t know this was happening (when we started this), so hopefully this can serve as a supplement to that and perhaps offer some useful information for the development of the (city) plan.”

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