As part of a central city community building effort through the NSG program, neighbours in Fairview Slope came together to paint bird houses to be placed on city boulevard trees along 7th avenue between Ash and Oak Street.
Our purpose was to bring people together, create art using birdhouses as our canvases, and add them to the neighbourhood as a form of garden art, drawing people’s eyes up to the artwork but also to see the beauty of our trees and surrounding nature in our neighbourhood.
In total approximately 40 children and more than 20 adults were involved in some aspect of the project. Approximately 80 houses were painted and/or decorated with 15 located on 8th avenue around the Heritage Coop to be ready for viewing along 7th and 8th avenue on the February 20th Family Day weekend.
We communicated the information about the project through the Fairview Facebook page, email, word of mouth, and signs. Initially the project was scheduled to be done in three steps but we were able to do it in two steps instead. We gathered together on a Pro-D day November 25th to paint. Individuals who couldn’t make it, wanted to do their own painting party as a group, or wanted to do the painting on their own time were able to pick up supplies that day or another day. A date was set for when the houses were to be returned. The initial plan was to have individuals join us for hanging the birdhouses but because of winter weather we couldn’t schedule specific dates except on short notice. They were hung over two days a week apart (Feb 11 & Feb 17).
The kids seemed to really have fun and were excited to see their birdhouses hanging. The Family Day weekend was rainy so the weather wasn’t the best to walk the blocks but the exhibition part wasn’t the main purpose of the project.
The biggest challenge was some negative feedback from 5 individuals as we were hanging the houses. 3 of the encounters were civil and respectful and the individuals were reasonable and accepting once they knew the installation wasn’t going to be permanent but only for the long weekend and then would be brought down. Some people in the neighbourhood took it upon themselves to remove the birdhouses themselves and didn’t return them so presumably they were thrown out. One of the other individuals wrote an email to the Susan, the NSG coordinator and the other was very angry and yelled and swore at me. I had prepared a notice about the project which I left at as many stratas as possible. Susan was extremely supportive and encouraging even though at one point I wondered if I should just take everything down. In any event, we persisted and hung the remaining houses.
I learned that although there were people who didn’t support the project, the majority of people did and I received emails from people saying thank you as well as people who stopped to speak to me directly and say how much they loved seeing the birdhouses hanging and hoped that they could stay permanently. In future, if I was to plan an event similar to this, I might communicate about it directly to the neighbours prior rather than relying on the community facebook page and notices that were posted in the area. However that approach has potential problems too. What I do know is that many people appreciate neighbours trying to connect with neighbours and that many people love the feeling of being in a neighbourhood which has character, where people care about others, and interesting things happen.