Back in 2007, I remember a new project hitting the streets of downtown Orillia. I would scan the sidewalk for a particular banner an artistic friend had made, pointing it out to friends and family every time I visited downtown.
Ten years later, Orillia’s Streets Alive has expanded from banners attached to lampposts to large scale installations. We have seen giant chairs, doors, guitars, letters, and boats line Orillia’s streets. Leslie Fournier, Founder and Manager of Streets Alive, explains: “After a couple of years of running the Banner program, I wanted to add more art and creativity by putting sculptures on the sidewalk. Craftsman Ron Schell has designed and fabricated many of our sculptures; he is incredibly talented and much of the success of the program is due to his design and unique skills.” Fournier continues, “Our hope with adding three dimensional, large scale sculptures was to attract people downtown to see five blocks of public art and to help stimulate the local economy.” Indeed, every summer, my family and I would make an effort to take a walk downtown and pick out our favourite Streets Alive pieces, squabbling over which one was the coolest, the most creative. Looking back, Streets Alive has allowed us to enjoy our downtown in new and unexpected ways.
The varied themes of Streets Alive are usually chosen to reflect a particular local event, celebration, or community effort. “Guitars on Parade celebrated fifty years of our fabulous Mariposa Folk Festival,” says Fournier. “Leacock Chairs recognized 100 years of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. And, of course, last summer, Maple Masterpieces was a grand celebration of both Canada’s and Orillia’s 150th birthday.” Besides anniversaries, Streets Alive has also created themes to promote different causes. “We have also done projects that encourage recycling and repurposing items,” says Fournier. “This was especially the case with our Downtown Doors project, where artists could source out old doors and bring them to life with their talents.”
This year’s theme is all about celebrating the ten year anniversary of Streets Alive. “We are doing a retrospective project by bringing out pieces from each of our past years,” says Fournier. “Many of the pieces will be refreshed with new designs, so the locals will be seeing new artwork, even if they recognize the basic sculpture from a previous project.”
What does the future look like for the project? “Streets Alive may evolve over the next few years to enhance our alleyways and public spaces,” says Fournier. “There is great energy in our arts community, and we hope to work with the arts community to add to this vibrant streetscape in all possible ways. We’re pleased that the City of Orillia, Downtown Orillia, and the community have supported the Streets Alive program and that we have been able to continue for a decade and beyond.”
Streets Alive runs as a program of the Orillia & District Arts Council. If you are interested in participating in Streets Alive, make sure to attend the Starry Night Studio and Gallery Tour in downtown Orillia this August, where they will be announcing next year’s theme. Everyone is then welcome to apply and submit an application through the Orillia Museum of Art & History.
by Emily Bednarz
Orillia & District Arts Council
Orillia Museum of Art & History
Orillia Starry Night Studio & Gallery Tour