Neighbourhood Spaces Interview with STAG Executive Director John Elliott

Next in the Neighbourhood Spaces (NS) mini-doc series is an interview with John Elliott, Executive Director of Sandwich Teen Action Group (STAG) in Windsor, ON. In this video, John talks about his organization, the importance of face-to-face communication, and community partnerships. STAG is a community-based charitable organization in the west end of Windsor, providing programs and support for at-risk youth. A former school, STAG offers an ideal location for the Centre, which will function as a music classroom, drop-in space and practice area for Neighbourhood Spaces (NS) artist-in-residence Kenneth MacLeod (Windsor).

Throughout his 6 week residency, Kenneth will oversee the project and offer free music instruction and workshops to neighbourhood youth ages 13-20. After the residency, Kenneth aims to continue the centre, creating a permanent space for youth to develop and expand their musical skills and abilities in Windsor.

He will also be at the Windsor Youth Centre (WYC), a drop-in Centre for homeless and at-risk youth ages 13-20 located in Wyandotte Town Centre. Every Wednesday he can be found jamming, teaching and learning with youth at the Centre.

Visit the NS Blog for more updates:

NS is a collaborative partnership between the Arts Council – Windsor & RegionBroken City Lab and The City of Windsor (“the Collaborative”). This program is made possible through the generous financial support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Neighbourhood Spaces Artist-in-Residence Announces Call to Community for New Music Resource Centre


Neighbourhood Spaces Artist-in-Residence Announces Call to Community for New Music Resource Centre at Sandwich Teen Action Group (STAG)

Tuesdays from 4-7pm, Starting June 25th – July 16th @ STAG – 3735 King St. just off of Prince Road

Local Musician, Singer-Songwriter, Bandleader and Teacher, Kenneth MacLeod is one of 10 artists selected for Neighbourhood Spaces: Windsor & Region Artist in Residence Program, a new initiative of “The Collaborative”: Arts Council Windsor & Region (ACWR), Broken City Lab (BCL) and The City of Windsor. After receiving 150 applications, Neighbourhood Spaces (NS) has selected 10 Canadian artists to be located in community sites throughout Windsor and Essex County for 4-6-week artist residences.

As a NS artist-in-residence, Kenneth will be developing and creating a new drop-in music resource and education centre at Sandwich Teen Action Group (STAG), a community-based charitable organization in the west end of Windsor, providing programs and support for at-risk youth. A former school, STAG offers an ideal location for the Centre, which will function as a music classroom, drop-in space and practice area. Kenneth will also be partnering with the Windsor Youth Centre (WYC), a drop-in Centre for homeless and at-risk youth ages 13-20 located in Wyandotte Town Centre. As an NS artist-in-residence at WYC, he will be there Wednesday evenings encouraging youth to write and share songs about their own experiences, communities and neighbourhoods. At the end of the residency, youth will have the option to participate in a performance that will celebrate and showcase their talent.

Throughout his 6 week residency, Kenneth will oversee the project and offer free music instruction and workshops to neighbourhood youth ages 13-20. Drawing on connections to local musicians and community members, Kenneth and the NS Program will bring volunteers, equipment and resources to the Centre.  After the residency, Kenneth aims to continue the Centre, creating a permanent space for youth to develop and expand their musical skills and abilities in Windsor.

In preparation for his NS residency, which begins on August 6th, Kenneth is asking for donations of new or used instruments of all kinds such as drums, tambourines, keyboards, guitars and ukuleles, as well as other sound equipment and music resources such as music books, sheet music, amplifiers, audio cables, microphones, guitar racks and other items.

Supported by the Ontario Trillium FoundationNeighbourhood Spaces will allow artists to pursue research and create artwork that explores and responds to the stories, triumphs and challenges of various communities. Residencies will begin July 15th, 2013 and be staggered over the next year, concluding in August 2014. A final exhibition and symposium will be held in the fall of 2014 and an online publication will be created documenting the program. The 2013-2014 NS Artists will be announced in July 2013.

If you have a donation for the NS Music Resource Centre at STAG or questions about the NS Program, please contact Alana Bartol, Program Coordinator for Neighbourhood Spaces at 226-975-1732 or

Walk-by Theatre: Bike Safety, the Psychology of Selling, and Leadership in the 1940s

Last night we hosted our first Walk-by Theatre screening. Featuring films pulled from the Prelinger archives, Danielle and I curated a program that touched on the aesthetics, values, and practices of 1940s/50s/60s American culture.

The built-in benches on Pelissier along with some chairs from our collection were perfect seating for the hour-long program. A number of other passersby stopped for a couple of minutes, while others stayed for the rest of the screening. A large sheet, our new projector, and some borrowed speakers made this a really simple process and I think it looked really great!

And, in case you missed it, here are the links to the films:

One Got Fat – Bicycle Safety (1963)

Man to Man – Salesmanship and psychology instruction for gun dealers (1947)

Hired! – Quirky Chevrolet sales film (1940)

We’ll be doing this nearly every Monday at 9pm for an hour-or-so. It’s free, and we have plenty of seating. There’s a parking garage right above the seating, and plenty of bike racks.

Here Comes the Neighborhood


HCTN EPISODE 1 : INTRODUCING THE WALLS from Here Comes the Neighborhood on Vimeo.

I dream daily about a colourful, messy, city as this one.

For the amount of dead space that lies between places, there should be something to pull people in and make them walk by and engage in something, even if it’s only momentarily. It reminds me about something I had thought up a while ago in re-imagining Maiden Lane as a more interactive space…. (more on that at a later time.)

HERE COMES THE NEIGHBORHOOD explores a unique juncture in history as a new community emerges and evolves. A progressive urban revitalization campaign is examined in the first person, using this year’s new Artists and their commissions as a lens to explore a neighborhood in transition. The Series is framed by colorful overview and concluding episodes, providing the scope of past, present and future.

An outdoor museum. Why can’t some form of this project be done here?

Thanks Tom.

A Summary of Things I’ve Been Thinking About

Today, a very brief summary of some things that I’ve been thinking about and noted over the last few weeks…

Above, a portal. Perhaps a cross-border portal. An under-used, long forgotten relic of a portal prototype. Cordoned off, waiting for a new route. Partington and Wyandotte on our side, where’s the related neighbourhood in Detroit? Maybe the portals we’ve been thinking about are more readily located than we’ve realized, or maybe this is all about something closer to what Rosina pointed out last week. I’m certain that it’s worth re-appropriating all kinds of infrastructures for our own imaginary impossibilities.

Down the street, a message from an anchor in the neighbourhood. Somehow this made me feel like things are going to be okay in this end of town — maybe that this hair salon sits steadily against the constant tide of rental units, impermanence — or maybe business is just really bad, but maybe, just maybe, this hand-written notice to passersby suggests that 19 years went by with some things really able to stay the same.

And across the river, a simple sign, retroreflective glory, the layout, the strangeness of nearly all type of informative signage, somehow these messages always make me ask more questions — that is, curiosity about the space between what this sign can tell me and the uncertainty of the missing information and details about just how to get back to where I started, a parking lot I can’t geographically place in my mind days after leaving my car and after hours of travel. Signs everywhere communicate with a strange grammar, commands and directions, and I’m continually interested in why I often have to reread signs so many times to try to ascertain exactly what they’re trying to get me to do.

Perhaps a summary was too generous. This is more just a collection, an attempt to annotate these photos before they’re long buried in a photo library and an attempt to try to think through some projects on the go and in the works.


Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental

On Saturday, Eric, Danielle, and her sister, Jessica, and I headed over to the Power House neighbourhood walk in Detroit.

I’d been hoping to finally see this project in person, as it’s been a little over two years since I first wrote about it here. I’d missed their residency at the DIA (saw the installation, but didn’t get to see Mitch or Gina) and also missed them at MOCAD (but seeing their Neighborhood Machine on exhibition was very cool). So, to be able to get a tour and talk to Mitch about their project was really, really great.

Above, a to-do list from artist-in-residence, Monica Canilao, who plan to return to purchase the upper-half of this duplex.

Continue reading “Power House Walking Tour: Understanding the Incremental”

Neighbourhood Deterioration and Suburbanism

As I think about where I live, in a subdivision off of dominion road near the Holy Name of Mary Highschool, I immediately think of the current hollowing and cutting into the forest and brush that’s going on to make room for more houses, and more roads. The illumination of this by me is quite ironic however, considering my family and I live in one of these very suburban houses.

It’s obvious this has negative impacts on the wildlife that exists. I see coyotes almost every night trotting just outside the back of the house. During the winter months (such as it is now), we tend to leave dry corn in a wooden box with some apples in the backyard. Some nights I’ve counted 12 dear hanging out just behind my house.

It’s interesting to think of how the literal physical border of this city, via the road and the backs of houses, keep cutting further and further into this small forest landlocked in the middle of the city of Windsor.


This is an older image taken from Google Earth, but I have highlighted one of the sections where they have clear cut the forest and brush. (There’s another large area they have cut on the other side of the bush that I couldn’t fit into the image). The area in yellow today is full of empty streets, and empty  lots with pipes sticking out of the ground.

I guess where I am getting may be partly an environmental awareness and a defense for this landlocked micro-environment, but also an awareness of the suburbanism that has occurred in a city where its downtown core has not been kept up infrastructurally speaking, and has been ‘hollowed out’, so to speak.

Suburban housing development has not only contributed to the hollowing out of the downtown core, but also has been a result of various things such as dependency on economic sectors (auto industry, higher paying jobs, etc…), which has allowed those fortunate enough to buy a house away from the deteriorating core of Windsor itself. The core isn’t getting the economic, social, and infrastructural attention it needs to function in a more cohesive and economically and culturally integrated way (especially considering how the Windsor/Detroit area has had so much potential of economic integration in the past with the integration of the auto industry. But as we know, Detroit is also suffering from neighbourhood deterioration).

I think these conversations also imply other things such as generalizations of classes of people in both cities being a large contributer to the attention (or lack of) payed to certain neighbourhoods, and implies many other cases to think about, like the shallow analysis political leaders of our municipalities provide as a way to talk positively about improving infrastructure of older neighborhoods in city planning.

The irony is, I have only provided a shallow analysis of the problems discussed, which started with me thinking about the geography and situation of my immediate neighbourhood.

This is a ‘before’ picture of the field and forest, which has now been paved with new streets. (I should really provide an ‘after’ picture for effectiveness)


Maybe the ‘make this better’ would be placed in a deteriorating neighborhood, possibly housing or buildings? Although I havn’t chosen a direct area to do this, I hope at the least that it can generate at least one good conversation. I’m still thinking about it!

Janine Marchessault & the Leona Drive Project

Photo by wyliepoon.

A couple months ago I attended a talk hosted by Janine Marchessault on the Leona Drive project, which is a collaboration between The Public Access Collective and L.O.T. : Experiments in Urban Research (Collective).

Justin mentioned the Leona Drive Project back in 2009, but for a refresher: The Leona Drive project commissioned artist projects for a site specific exhibition in a series of six vacant bungalows slated for demolition by HYATT HOMES, a developer in Willowdale, Ontario (in the Yonge and Finch area of the GTA). The artists worked with a variety of media: audio, cell phones with GPS, architectural installation, projection, photography, sculpture and performance for a period of two weeks in the fall of 2009.

Continue reading “Janine Marchessault & the Leona Drive Project”

Power House Detroit: Artists as Community Leaders

I’ve written about Power House over in Detroit before. Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert of Design99 started this Hamtramck-based neighbourhood project a couple of years ago now. Able to take advantage of the radically declining real estate market, they bought up a house for $100 and have since been working in the neighbourhood on small and large scale projects that tackle the potential of art affecting change.

They’ve since been featured in exhibitions at the DIA‘s project space and at MOCAD, but the really interesting stuff is, of course, happening on the ground. Juxtapoz assisted Cope and Reichert in buying more foreclosed homes to be used as project spaces, Power House is now Power House Productions and a formal 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, and they’re thinking about doing things like creating a Neighborhood Bike Shop and Skate Parks and Bike Courses.

Model D‘s latest article on Power House Productions frames the work well:

They’ve been organizing block clubs with their neighbors where they’re tackling everyday concerns like garbage pickup and snow removal — not ruminating on notions of gentrification and art theory. They are knee deep in the notion and practice that art can fuel community development — and not necessarily just the community that typically “consumes” art.

So, art as social practice? Certainly, yes. This work will undoubtedly become a touchstone for writing around social practice, publicly-engaged practices, and contemporary art at the end of first decade of the 2000s. However, even framing the discussion around art is perhaps doing the project (and neighbourhood) an injustice. These artists are taking on the role (or is it responsibility) of being community leaders in the neighbourhood — artists as community leaders. Not artists performing the role of a community leader, not artists creating an exhibition on community leaders, not merely facilitating workshops on what it means to be a community leader, but really stepping into a role that raises a lot of questions and maybe, just maybe, does some real good.

And there are questions, of course. One has to wonder about what’s at stake when a real neighbourhood becomes an art project (and we have to look no further than the Heidelberg Project to see some of these implications), and one also has to keep a suspicious eye open around issues of gentrification, or the parachute effect of public art practices,  or even just the moral and ethical dilemma of spurring a kind of development in a place that didn’t necessarily ask for it.

For the moment though, I think we need to step outside of those issues and look at the project with some fresh curiosity. Perhaps aside from the 17-year-long Project Row Houses, there isn’t a readily available model to understand this kind of art practice, and I’m ready to start wondering about what a model of artists as community leaders/activators/instigators with a long-term investment can do to change a place. And of course I’m curious — that’s pretty much what I hope we’re doing here.

via Model D Media

The Lot in Detroit: A Traveling Public Art Exhibition & Model for Temporary Use Spaces

Back in 2009, Kathy Leisen, an artist living in Corktown, Detroit, started using a vacant lot next to her house as a public art venue. She called it The Lot. And there are big letters to demarcate the space. The Lot is now less a particular vacant lot than an idea for using many vacant lots. From The Lot‘s website:

The Lot is an open space. A venue for art, creative thinking and performance, the lot is a curatorial project […] the lot is a transient artspace partnering with friends, strangers, and organizations.

The lot uses empty city lots. Typically, this means hard clay earth, crab grass and other weeds, and unexpected debris. Manipulating the land is ok. Landscaping is ok. Bringing in outside materials is ok. For example, proposals so far have included: creating a cemetery, hut sounds (sounds emitted from a hut), arranging an archeological dig (ancient cheetos wrappers), making a gallery of inflatables, and holding african dance classes.

There’s a range of projects detailed on The Lot‘s website, but maybe the best part of it is just the idea of coming together in a new place and doing something. Local artists are paired with out of town artists for each exhibition. Leisen prepared the original lot by picking up chunks of concrete in her downtime. She got to know her neighbours, brings together friends and strangers, and she frames this activity around the following idea: “We live here for a reason.”

As of late, The Lot has become a traveling public art exhibition, a pop-up exhibition of sorts, taking on an increasingly helpful and critical approach to using space temporarily. Often this temporary use by artists allows for the venue to be left in better condition than when it was found. We know — after SRSI, those storefronts were in a lot better shape than when we first moved in.

And that seems like a pretty fair trade-off. Temporary use of space for free, as long as we somehow improve the space before we leave.

Maybe we should draft some sort of agreement to arm folks in this city with something formal looking so they can start approaching landlords. Free space for a limited time, we’ll repaint, clean, landscape, etc. And, I’ve suggested it before, but the lot next to the AGW would be an amazing community space, why don’t we activate it?