Everyone in Waterloo Region has been waiting for the shift. Once the ION LRT system (light rail transit) kicks off and the trains are running, stops around Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge will be flooded with foot traffic.
In an effort to beautify these blank concrete canvases, the Region of Waterloo requested proposals from artists for public art installations along the ION route.
After two years of dreaming, deliberation, design, drawing, planning, revising, budgeting, and more revising, the projects are finally under way.
One such project is the Arras mosaic. A community-built art installation planned for the LRT stop at Fairview Park Mall, in Kitchener, Ontario. The two creative minds leading the designs - mosaic artists Elana Chand and Lauren Judge - are excited to share their stories with you.
What's so exciting about a bus stop mosaic?
The presence of artwork in a space can transform simple structures into conversation pieces and cultural landmarks. And mosaics are a particularly effective approach to drawing people in. “Up close, mosaics appear one way, and from afar they can look completely different,” say the artists.
“We want the community to experience this space not as a large expanse of paved parking spaces, or as simply a shopping centre, but to be drawn to the bright colours, textures, and recognizable patterns that reflect its history and cultural influences. The artwork at the Fairway LRT stop should awaken the senses, connect the LRT users to the history of the space, and should serve as a memorable landmark.”
Picture It Now...
How will the project look?
Elana Chand comments: “Instead of being one big picture, we chose to represent the different decades since Fairview Mall’s inception with different textile patterns from each of the eras.” The piece will combine globally known historical patterns in bright and welcoming colours, connecting designs like patchwork and forming a system of warmth and beauty.
“There is no room for getting bored. And we get to stretch ourselves by switching to different techniques and styles depending on the textile.”
The work isn't without its challenges, though. Lauren Judge, who experiments with acrylic paint, textiles and aleatoric processes relates: “[The challenge is] the waiting. I'm a pretty patient person, but the public art process requires a strong commitment to a process. And the Arras project is directly affected by schedules and hiccups in the larger transit system's building schedule. Naturally, it can be emotionally taxing.”
Elana Chand, a craftswoman inspired by the very core of mosaic artistry - breaking something apart and putting the pieces back together to form new and beautiful designs - is finding unique personal challenges as a new mom: “It’s nearly impossible to work with shards of glass with a baby around. And it’s hard to get into a creative flow when you’re also feeding, changing, soothing, etc. Babies are tough bosses!”
Since diving into the world of mosaics, Chand has taken several in-depth workshops and has learned about the proper materials and methods to use for outdoor artwork. Good thing too: There is some anxiety in the mosaic community when an outdoor mural is under way.
'If building techniques don't withstand the elements, the city loses trust in mosaics and it can reflect poorly on all local mosaic artists,' says one fellow artist. 'The success of the Arras project is something we're all watching very closely.'
Through a series of community art workshops, the artists have been guiding members of the public in the creation of sections of the wall, producing “new and positive memories from an interactive experience that, once installed, will develop into a sense of ownership at the LRT stop.”
'After a few basic lessons, the workshop got very quiet!' the Arras blog reports. 'Participants were hard at work.' What kind of feedback have the artists been getting thus far?
“People are so excited about the chance to be a part of this project,” says Chand. “To see it installed and point out their contributions...”
Judge notes: "At one of our recent events, an open studio evening, visitors said, 'I can't wait to see it finished!' I think the public is always excited to be engaged in the creative process." She adds: "I too am really, genuinely looking forward to seeing these big colourful panels on the walls of what would otherwise be an unremarkable driver's terminal.”
The third and final community workshop will be made up of mall employees, who will be key stakeholders enjoying the mosaic once it’s installed. It will be held Sunday, June 17 @ Globe Studios. 1-3 pm. 141 Whitney Pl, Kitchener, ON N2G 2X8, Canada.
You can read all about the exciting techniques and creative processes at arras.online.
About the Artists:
Raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Lauren Judge completed her Bachelor degree at York University, and then her Masters at the University of Waterloo.
Lauren first learned about painting from her father, Martin, an accomplished local portrait artist. Her first exhibition and foray into curating was in 1997 (Ekstasis).
Since 2007, Lauren has practiced professionally and now has paintings in personal collections across Canada, the US and the Netherlands.
Lauren’s interests include colour theory, design thinking, community development, international affairs, environmental history, and human behaviour.
A graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University’s business program, Elana Chand’s career prior to becoming an artist, working at Microsoft (both in Canada and the global office in Seattle), provided her with many skills leading interdisciplinary teams, as well as managing challenging budgets and timelines.
She finds the process of cutting each piece of a mosaic by hand and then laying them in a deliberate pattern to form a greater image not only moving, but also beautifying.
Overall, the partnership with between Judge and Chand has allowed for a lot of personal growth. Judge says: “I can see now how these connections spur us on, keep us engaged (because bad days do happen), and provide critical feedback and new perspectives. I think most artists should have to experience this in their career, to grow.”