Upcoming Artistic Interventions by Paul Chartrand and Jenn E Norton in St. George’s Square

This spring, Musagetes invited the Guelph community to propose artistic interventions for St. George’s Square: re-situations, reminders or recognitions of this place at a time when many downtown social activities and amenities are on the move to the nearby Market Square. The buses have moved to the VIA Rail/GO Transit station, and there is a new ice rink and splash pad in front of City Hall. Is St. George’s Square still a public space for gathering or has it been reduced to a traffic artery through the centre of the city? What makes public space useable or defunct? We asked the Guelph community to propose interventions that would foster new uses of one of Guelph’s most important public spaces: St George’s Square.

Last week, the jury met to review the many thoughtful proposed interventions received. The jury members were Shawn Van Sluys and Alissa Firth-Eagland of Musagetes, and City Councillor Lise Burcher. We are pleased to announce that the jury selected interventions by local artists Paul Chartrand and Jenn E Norton, whose projects will animate St. George’s Square from August to October 2013.

In light of Guelph’s transition from an agriculturally supported city to a growing urban centre, Paul Chartrand has proposed to create Fluxus Garden, a modular garden in St George’s Square. Small, portable garden plots built with recycled materials will be offered to individuals and groups wishing to experiment with DIY farming techniques and grow their own food in the Square. This compartmentalized community farm will serve as a hub for hands-on learning about urban agriculture.

Chartrand’s project will foster community engagement and collaboration through a series of workshops on gardening and food security, which will build awareness of food production and offer a point of reflection on local food politics. Food can be a strong symbol for hope and empowerment. The politics of food and hunger experienced by some are a hidden reality for many residents of Guelph. What better place to offer people an opportunity for learning, growth, and pride than the traditional centre of the city in St. George’s Square? If you’d like to garden in St George’s Square, send a note to info@musagetes.ca/musagetes-old. Gardeners will be selected on the basis of need.

For the first phase of Jenn E Norton’s project, Site Lines, she will gather a wide range of ideas for physical changes to St. George’s Square using a traditional Suggestion Box. Rather than practical improvements, however, patrons of the Square are asked to dream big and propose their pie-in-the-sky concepts for the future use of this shared public environment. (Think the Square could use a giant 24-karat gold pyramid? Write up a description and put it in the Suggestion Box!)

For the second phase of this project, Norton will select 6 ideas and render them into 3D designs using Cinema 4D technology. These will be printed on posters and displayed in the Square so that the wildest imaginings of Guelphites can be shared with everyone who passes through. By drawing deeply upon residents’ imaginations this project expresses feedback and desires felt in our community about our built spaces. Your outlandish musings, ingenious considerations, architectural alterations and amenities are welcome! Keep an eye out for the Suggestion Box.

Paul Chartrand graduated with distinction in May 2013 from the Bachelor of Arts program at the University of Guelph, with a Studio Art Major and Geography Minor. Paul’s work is primarily concerned with issues of the environment and with the aesthetic interactions created between people and nature. The complexities of ecological systems interest him deeply and his visual language incorporates naturally occurring patterns and forms. Paul’s work reflects on human interaction with our environment and the traces left behind. His thesis work, exhibited in the Boarding House Gallery, featured a living ecosystem, warmed by and integrated into the ventilation system of the building. His solo exhibition, Mycelial (which took place in streets and squares of several cities in southern Ontario), inserted tiny mushroom sculptures into the built urban environment: small acts of natural insurgence. Currently, his work is centered on engaging viewers with environmental issues through public and participatory art practices.

Recently Paul has been experimenting with incorporating subject matter of works as the medium of the work itself. He tends to avoid being associated with any single medium, instead searching for the optimal approach to convey the meaning of a particular artistic project. Currently this means stepping out from his history as an object maker into the realm of politicized social practice.

Jenn E Norton is an artist working with interdisciplinary media including video, installation, sound, and kinetic sculpture to produce performative, critically engaged work. Playing with the elastic qualities inherent of digital technologies Norton’s diverse practice considers the immateriality of the media she employs, and the complex relationship between artist and viewer. Through this approach, Nortonʼs practice reaches an uncanny intimacy between the subject matter and the viewer, often in a self-reflexive manner. Recent works have decidedly delved into the intuitive, imaginative and emotive process of image making.

Norton has won numerous grants, awards, and scholarships, including the OCAD Integrated Media Medal for excellence in an interdisciplinary practice. She received an MFA from the University of Guelph in 2007, and has worked as an educator, broadcast editor, freelance animator, painter, and circus performer.

She has recently shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rooftop Films Summer Series (Brooklyn, NY), The Canadian Film Centre’s World Wide Short Film Festival (Toronto), The Yukon Arts Centre, The Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque, The KWAG Biennial (Kitchener), and Pleasure Domeʼs New Toronto Works. Norton was a featured artist at CAFKA.11, where in addition to premiering her immersive, interactive, 3D video installation created during her 2011 residency with CAFKA and Christie Digital, she exhibited a 3D animated public projection at Kitchenerʼs City Hall. Upcoming exhibitions include a touring show presented by ISIS (UK) curated by Kelly Richardson; Festival of Light (Onagawa, JP); a stereoscopic animation commission by the Toronto Animated Image Society; and a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2014.

Musagetes is an international organization that strives to make the arts a more central and meaningful reality in peoples’ lives, in our communities and societies. Guelph is our home—this is where we live and work. Musagetes established its offices here in 2009 because the city has rich and nuanced cultural and socio-political conditions that make it an exciting location for cultural experimentation. We are also actively working in Rijeka on the coast of Croatia, Lecce in the south of Italy, and Sudbury, in northern Ontario to demonstrate how art can be participatory and socially engaged, to establish a greater sense of belonging in communities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Danica Evering, Project Assistant, Musagetes, 519 836 7300 ext. 103, danica@musagetes.ca/musagetes-old