Instead of turning a blind eye to downtown’s less attractive spaces, artists decorated them.
Eleven artists from Okotoks and Calgary created temporary site-specific installations using repurposed material in 18 walkways, garden spaces, between buildings and otherwise unseen spaces throughout downtown Okotoks in the Nooks & Crannies Festival.
The pieces were unveiled July 22 and will remain on site until Aug. 25.
“There’s a little bit of a buzz,” said Allan Boss, Okotoks culture and heritage manager. “People got to see artists doing their work and there was lot of questions when they were on site.”
The festival is a collaboration between Town departments, businesses and professionals, prompted by a discussion that began several years ago.
Last year, culture and heritage staff took photographs of the hidden spaces throughout downtown and this year put an invite out to local artists and hobbyists to beautify the space in an
environmentally friendly way, said Boss.
“There’s some strong messaging,” he said. “One artist collected litter along the Okotoks riverbank to turn into art. The majority of items are from the recycling centre.”
Okotoks artist Jennifer Stables created a sculpture of a robot, the main character from a book she wrote and illustrated, using wood, Styrofoam, newspaper, cardboard, old doorknobs, gears and other recycled and discarded materials.
Stables involved the public, bringing the robot, Bolts, to the Children’s Festival in June and inviting youngsters to create flowers using recycled plastic and write messages of gratitude surrounding the robot.
She also incorporated Okotoks’ history into her installation - located in a shady green space along McRae Street.
After learning that a band used to play for newlyweds at the Okotoks train station in the early 20th century, Stables created birds out of Styrofoam and made instruments for them out of recycled materials like plastic lids for drums and aluminum for trumpets to surround Bolts with.
“During the BuskersFest I had a lot people stopping and asking about it,” she said. “I had a few kids gather around and I was able to read the story to them. I had some really great conversations about reducing our consumption and use what we already have.”
Stables said she loves that the Town is standing behind the need for more public art.
“It makes a huge difference in a community,” she said. “The power that art has to transform that space is unbelievable. It changes the whole atmosphere of the place.
“It just shows that we care about this space in the community. I love the idea of art in these otherwise overlooked areas.
“It makes people pause and know that we care about his space.”
Hobbyist Kathleen Hass created her first art installation by joining Nooks & Crannies, using discarded plastic from a 3D plastic shop to make what she calls The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
The 24-year-old, who has Down syndrome, had the help of friend Belinda Thomas to create a series of plastic circles with glass beads, which hangs on a fence beside A Very Delightful Boutique.
“I like doing art because it’s one of my favourite things,” said Hass.
This project was unique from any other Hass had completed, particularly because all of her materials had to be repurposed.
“It was new to me,” she said. “You get to use items and help the environment.”
Hass said it’s important to keep these types of products out of oceans to create a cleaner environment for ocean animals like dolphins and whales.
She said she enjoyed talking to people about her project during its unveiling on July 22, and even had friends come along to see it.
Boss said he plans to bring Nooks & Crannies back to Okotoks’ downtown next year.
“Next year we’ll see about trying to get some grants and sponsorship,” he said, adding all of the artists were paid.
Anyone interested in viewing the installations can get a map at the Okotoks Art Gallery and participating businesses.
For more details go online to okotoks.ca/nooks