The Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden has been working for over five years with Ottawa Urban Arts to create colourful murals to showcase the passions of both the garden and graffiti communities. A new 20-metre mural, marked by a ribbon cutting in early September, is the latest symbol of artistic collaboration within the community – but it won’t be there for long.
The mural features friendly animals relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day in a blossoming garden. The sky is a clear blue and the sun is shining with a smile over the rich, brown soil.
There is something different about the wall, located on the west side of the garden near the corner of Laurier and Bronson avenues, which poses a challenge. Its unusual status in the past as an “accepted wall” for graffiti artists has made unauthorized painting (or “tagging”) more of an issue, says Cassandra Dickie, owner and coordinator of Ottawa Urban Arts.
“I’ve never had a mural tagged except for this one because this is just a very special case,” she says.
The mural sits directly above one of only three legal graffiti walls in the city, says Leslie Vanclief, section manager of stakeholder relations with Ottawa’s Public Works Department. Legal walls are spaces where graffiti artists can paint without penalty. It is not required to get permission from the property owner or a permit from the city to paint on a legal wall. “If somebody puts up a piece today, you can go and paint over it tomorrow if that’s what you want to do,” says Vanclief.
The garden mural is not a legal wall but its proximity to the one facing Slater Street has likely led artists to assume that the mural is part of the legal painting area, Vanclief explains.
The wall’s location, along with the challenges of winter weather, has caused the mural to change faces many times. This latest illustration is the first in a series to be painted on this wall portraying the different seasons, creating a constant evolution of the space.
Many members of the community came out to the Sept. 6 ribbon cutting to see the new artwork.
Jennifer McKenzie, school trustee for the area, and Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes attended the ribbon cutting along with about 150 other people, from children to seniors, who were also enjoying the local Good Food Market.
“There were lots of children there and they were very proud of the murals and eager to participate in the ribbon cutting,” says McKenzie. “I think it’s just fantastic the way the whole community embraces and supports each other in their community involvement.”
“It’s really a positive thing to be happening in that part of town,” says Holmes. “The community was really very happy to have those murals there.”
The relationship between the artists and the gardeners is described as a key part of this project.
“This project is not only a mural done for a community garden. It’s really a partnership between the artists that use the legal graffiti wall downstairs and the people in the community garden upstairs,” says Dickie.
Dickie says projects like the Nanny Goat Hill mural are “a first step to further community improvement and bridge gaps between people. Because being creative, being artistic starts a dialogue within the community so they can make connections on other levels.”
McKenzie says the mural “brings everyone together.” She adds, “It builds understanding and companionship and that sense of community that everybody needs to feel in the downtown area and in the rural areas as well.”
The next mural in the seasonal series is tentatively scheduled for 2015.