Surprised by art — Folks Art Festival uses trash cans as a canvas

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Niagara’s annual Folk Arts Festival may be coming to an end, but its Art We Surprised project will last all summer – and maybe even beyond.

So if you’re strolling through Richard Pierpoint Park in St. Catharines and come face to face with a piece of art, be sure to take a closer look.

It was created and designed with care – but instead of the artist using a traditional canvas, the artwork is on a plastic bin.

The goal, as its name suggests, is surprise.

“The project was born out of the idea that people walking through (the park) would suddenly come across a highly decorated piece of art and be surprised to find it in a natural setting,” said Pam Seabrook, collection manager for funds and events at Niagara Folks Arts. Multicultural Center.

Originally planned for the 2020 festival through the City of St. Catharines’ Centennial Gardens Partnership Fund, Art We Surprised has been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Seabrook said the hiatus was because the organizers wanted the artwork to create “real engagement between the artists and the general public”, but ultimately opted for a hybrid model – with some solo creations and a few group pieces.

Covering an assortment of styles and inspiration, from pencil portraits to pieces reminding residents of the importance of caring for the environment. Each artwork is created by an artist who came to Canada as an immigrant.

Seabrook said the art project is an example of what the center stands for: the inclusion of all cultural heritages and the removal of racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, perceived lack of ability and isolation barriers.

One of the artists, Cemile Kacmaz, heard about the project through social media. Kacmaz came to Canada with her 12-year-old son in 2020, with the goal of working as an educational assistant and integrating art into special needs programs.

Originally from Istanbul, Kacmaz said she came to Canada because of the difficult political situation in Turkey and a lifestyle she didn’t want her son to grow up in. Being an artist in Canada allows her freedom of speech and expression. and for much of his own life – are not always allowed to share publicly.

Kacmaz attended Niagara College for two years (graduating last week), but with most classes online, he said it was difficult and lonely, with no friends or family nearby.

When she learned that the fold arts center was looking for artists to participate in its annual arts project, she thought it would be fun and give her a chance to get involved in the Niagara community.

Art We Surprised was an opportunity to use his art for change.

Kacmaz spent a month and a half planning and another month painting his trash can. It was a “long, slow process,” she said, but organizers gave artists the chance to take their time.

“Painting is the means of communication between me and the world. It’s kind of a tool to understand the world around me,” she said.

His inspiration was the universe, and by placing the bins in space, between “the planets and the stars, I wanted to emphasize how we deal with the nature in which we live and exist”.

All of the Art We Surprised bins created by artists from across the Niagara region – artists hailing from Lebanon, Africa, Colombia and China – will be placed in St. Catharines and Pierpoint Park this month .

The Niagara Folks Art Festival has held a community art project annually since 2019, with artists invited to participate in community art projects regardless of ability.

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