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Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Wheels on the Bus – 2

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 at 1:34 pm
Photo: Alison Chitty

Photo: Alison Chitty

July 26, 2009
I planted today. The soil needed a couple of days to settle and there has been tons of rain, but the main reason I wanted to plant today is because I like to plant by the moon whenever possible and today and tomorrow are “best days” for annuals. I planted the perennials too though as there are no more “best days” for them for a while. I had to insert small, black nails into the tires, particularly for the Black-Eyed Susan vine. I planted from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. and will return later. I have to park illegally while I am on site and in any case, I prefer being there early in the day. It’s always interesting to be in a city early before “normal” life kicks in. I did the previous planting at 6:00 a.m. I made 5 trips this morning, mostly because I am using only one (although large) watering can to water the plants in.

Here, by the way, is copy from the artist’s garden sign. When it is in, I will post a photo. The sign has all the logos of the partners and funders. The garden is a project of St. Catharines and Area Arts Council and City of St. Catharines with support from St. Catharines Transit.

Old tires are usually associated with dumping grounds – this garden recycles bus tires as plant trellises. Situated by the bus terminal, the garden celebrates public transit as a key strategy of “green” and sustainable communities. To further “green” downtown, the garden is planted with plants that are attractive to birds and butterflies. The title of course references the song familiar to toddlers everywhere! I hope that those driving by on a local or inter-city bus pulling out of the nearby terminal may notice this garden hiccup in the urban landscape and smile.
–  Elizabeth Chitty

July 26 AGPlant Material
Alyssum; Asclepias incarnate ‘Ice Ballet’; A. tuberosa – Butterfly Weed; Buddleia davidii ‘Pink Delight’ – Butterfly Bush; Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ & ‘Zagreb’ – Threadleaf Tickseed; Echinacea purpurea ‘Primadonna White’ & ‘Prairie Splendour’; Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun’ – Orange Sunflower; Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Southern Belle Mix’- Rose Mallow; Ipomoea  tricolour “Heavenly Blue” & “Split Personality” -Morning Glory; I. coccinea – Cardinalis Morning Glory; Monarda didyma ‘Raspberry Wine’ – Bee Balm; Rudbeckia fulgida  ‘Goldsturm’- Black-Eyed Susan; Thunbergia alata ‘African Sunset’- Black-Eyed Susan Vine and Trapaelum majus – ‘Empress of India’ & Tall Mixture – Nasturtium.

Photo: Alison Chitty

Photo: Alison Chitty

Returned around 6:00 under a suddenly black sky. I hadn’t watered in the last batch of alyssum (having run out of water) and it was astounding how much they managed to deteriorate in 7 hours of sunlight even though the rootballs were very wet. Planted more alyssum and one last straggling Morning Glory from the ones I sowed at home and my sister took more photos. Most is done but not all.

My Blundstone's which are about 20 years old, have seen 4 gardens (including this one), worked at Niagara Nurseries and are really about shot. I take Size 7.

My Blundstone's which are about 20 years old, have seen 4 gardens (including this one), worked at Niagara Nurseries and are really about shot. I take Size 7.


The Wheels on the Bus – 1

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm

July 23

July 9, 2009
 This morning I met at the site of my artist’s garden, The Wheels on the Bus, with Stewart Green, landscape architect with the City of St. Catharines and Mauro Becchetti, Acting Horticultural Foreman, Recreation and Community Services. Finally, there is action on getting the garden in.

 AG2The garden was selected on May 22 and City approval for the tires was communicated on June 19 – almost a month delay. Patti Broughton of SCAAC and I made numerous queries but there was no action and on July 6, we learned that the City liaison was on vacation. I went ballistic. (That is when I wrote p.s. to Want expressing my feelings about St. Catharines – using very reserved language compared to how I felt.)  Mauro is totally great and on the case. I bought plants in early June and he advised me to put the perennials in, rather than waiting for the installation of the tires.

 July 10, 2009
The sprirea has been removed. There will be a further delay because it is necessary to do locates for utilities.AG3

July 12
I planted the perennials. To my great surprise, I discovered the soil is only 10” deep. Oh dear.

July 23, 2009
This morning, the tires finally went in my artist’s garden. Three City staff put them in (well, two to do so and one to watch). I was very excited. The crew foreman started out AG4with a cynical vibe, but I engaged him by enlisting his advice and by the end he was entirely supportive and helpful. I am terrible with names but I think his name is Lee. (He didn’t want to be in the pictures but the others were fine with it.) He was faster digging than the younger man and apparently previously worked at the cemetery. I told him of my surprise about the soil and he knew all about it and explained that the site is nothing but fill with a shallow layer of soil. He suggested asking Mauro for topsoil which I did.AG5

 I took my secateurs to trim the dying Echinacea purpurea (it took a few days for City watering to kick in) which I tranplanted from my home garden and I left them there. I realized the second I pulled in at home and went back but they weren’t there, hopefully Lee and his crew have them. I hope so, although they are extremely beat up they have sentimental value. I bought them at the Chelsea Flower Show when I went to England on a Canada Council ‘A’ grant back in the old days when there were such things and/or I could get them.

p.s to Want

In Uncategorized on July 23, 2009 at 8:28 pm

July 5, 2009

It gave me satisfaction to be working on an art project as an artist in St. Catharines and I had a sense of benefitting from years of work building cultural infrastructure. I left Queen and Spadina in Toronto for rural Niagara in 1988. From 1998, when I got my first “break” of part-time employment writing the cultural municipal policy, to my departure as first Executive Director of St. Catharines and Area Arts Council in 2008, I lived a life imbalanced between giving and receiving. There was too much self-sacrifice and a lot of indignities. I will never know if this was “good” because I was going with the flow or “bad” because the compromises necessary removed me from any chance of the level of artistic achievement I knew as a young artist. But it doesn’t matter because what is is what is and that’s the end of it.

 I carry behind me a heavy wagon of resentments, a habit taken on early in life that I am ambivalent about breaking. A special section of the wagon is reserved for resentments about St. Catharines. When I moved back to Niagara in 1988, St. Catharines was a nightmarish wilderness after the artistic ferment, vigour and brilliance of Queen St., the General Idea scene and the early days of artist-run culture. I avoided living in St. Catharines until 2004 when I rented a lovely old house owned by a friend from my adolescence, and to my surprise, things started falling into place – a got a job in culture and I fell in love. (Both are gone now.)

Yes, there is finally going to be an arts centre in this city, after decades of attempts, but there is still very far to go before this is an arts-friendly town.  I remember too keenly years of frustration, irritation and humiliation in this town. As in, “Please, please let me write you a very good municipal cultural policy…oh yes, I’ll be thrilled to work for $10.26 an hour, anything for work. I’ll be so happy to write it even though  I cannot afford housing. Please, please, let me work like a maniac for the community arts council because I’m so happy to finally have a job here in culture. Please, please, let us give you a wonderful artists’ garden project in this town called the Garden City. Etc. Etc.”) Numerous things I could mention and won’t out of a sense of “appropriateness” that finally developed late in life and a desire to do no harm. The good part was I genuinely want to give service, the bad part but it crossed too often into neglecting one’s self. Being here has been hiding one’s light under a bushel, to use a Judeo-Christian phrase.  I am much happier in my current job (CADA-ON) and delighted to work at CSI. (See links).

 So, on July 3, as I sat in my camp chair outside of the Arts Council (I used to call it SCAAC but that seems to have passed), waiting for participants in Want to pass by, watching a street person nestled in the beautiful foliage of the arch of the first artist’s garden in St. Catharines, I felt a quiet sense of accomplishment. (The garden is by Don Dormady and titled, Arch. It is into its third year and the arch is truly magnificient.) Art City owes something to the success of James St. Night of Art, another SCAAC project I initiated. And I will be soon planting the second artist’s garden in St. Catharines. But the delays in the City’s preparation for my garden show nothing but indifference, if not contempt, for an artist’s work.


In Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 at 8:17 pm
I hand this out on the street.

I hand this out on the street.

Tonight was the first Want. It was fascinating. I am thrilled with the direct contact with the public and the diversity of responses. (So often one has no contact with an audience and no idea of the response.) I was touched by how many people responded with such thoughtfulness, how seriously they approached the decision of what to want. Some people wanted to think about it and return next month to record their want. Early in the evening, someone laughed uproariously and described the piece as very entertaining.  (I remember how in the 70s that was a bad word.) Many people were delighted. One person wouldn’t record his want, saying his English wasn’t good enough (he spoke perfect English) and that he became flustered with microphones. A few people (all men I think) were interested in the hardware. Many people (mostly women) asked for guidance or permission about what categories of wants they might be allowed to have and I felt a little explosion (if only in myself) when I replied that it was entirely up to them, their decision, that it could be anything. There were quite a few children and with the little ones mums and dads accompanied them in the tent. One mother fed her child her lines then followed up by saying she could choose whatever she wanted – of course the child parroted what she had been fed. Only one group of people, three couples in their mid to late thirties, gave me the brush-off and responded as though I was soliciting them for some kind of gimmick when I invited them to participate. Another young couple was very reluctant to talk to me and one older couple were somewhat supercilious. But overwhelmingly, people were completely genuine and present and I found a remarkable clarity in my interactions. I am so happy with this project!

I want to upload 4 audio files from July 3 but when I try, WordPress does not allow mp3s without an upgrade. I will look into it but it probably means money.  By the way, my dear old art gal friends Margaret and Berenicci helped me know what to call this work (i.e. community-based, interactive installation/performance).

Artist Statement
The public is invited to enter the silk tent under the awning and record a voice message of one sentence starting with, “I want…..”. These messages will be collected by the artist over the July, August and September Art City events at varying locations. At the October event, they will be played back over loudspeakers.  In this work, I am creating an aural picture of community defined by our desires. What is it we want? Yes, we live in an acquisitive consumer society yet desires and wants have always been part of the human condition.

July 3, 2009


In Uncategorized on July 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm
photo: Athena Madan

photo: Athena Madan

photo: Athena Madan
photo: Athena Madan

I participated in a global event commemorating the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. My dear friend, Bernicci, e-mailed me information about the project and I instantly decided to join. I had used video of the Tank Man in an installation I did in 1997 and have always found it such moving imagery. I sent out a mass e-mail, was joined by one wonderful person, Dana, and we were witnessed by three friends as we performed the Tank Man Tango in front of St. Catharines City Hall on June 4 at 4:00 pm. Athena attended and was roped into photographing. The website for this event is – check it out. Here are a few video traces provided by the Sydney, Australia artist and organizer, Deborah Kelly:
Some people making the dancing vigil in Bristol:

These people in Brussels are part of Amnesty:

Here it is in Singapore, at the Substation: