Citizen ideas help Downtown New West get activated this summer

Sidewalk art, circus arts and an augmented reality mural are the winners in the Downtown New West BIA’s new place-making grant program.

The BIA received 23 proposals for the new program that aims to inspire the community in activating local public spaces. The three winning submissions are being executed this summer.

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Kendra Johnston, executive director, said the Downtown New West BIA undertakes a lot of place-making work within the downtown, such as putting on events like Fridays on Front and installing lighting and banners along our main streets.

“Our team wanted to share our expertise and resources to support and inspire others to undertake similar work, and that was the impetus for launching this program,” she said in a press release. “We were overjoyed and truly impressed by the engagement in this process and already looking forward to expanding on this program for 2020.”    

If you’ve been in downtown New West lately, you may have seen the kids’ sidewalk art installation that’s been executed by local resident Vera Kobalia. It’s bringing traditional games to downtown sidewalks.

“Hopscotch, dance pads, Twister and other semi-permanent stenciled art will allow for kids (of all ages) to engage in physical activity and play,” said a BIA press release. “These have just been installed with the help of Emily Carr and Kwantlen College fine arts students along Front Street, on the overpass to the riverfront and at River Market.”

Community members are encouraged to snap of a photo of them interacting with these fun and whimsical installations and post it on social media using the hashtag #playnewwest.

Kobalia, who submitted several ideas to the grant program, was a double winner, as her augmented reality mural, You Are Home, was also funded.

“Vera envisioned Metro Vancouver’s first ‘augmented reality’ mural in downtown New West to highlight the city’s new initiatives in the technology sector, provide an opportunity for local artists to showcase their work and to boost resident’s health and happiness by installing public art,” said the press release. “The Downtown New West BIA connected Vera with the Union Gospel Mission, who agreed to the installation on their McKenzie Street building.”

Artist Cynthia Vo recently finished painting the mural, which will be activated and “come alive” via a phone. Kobalia worked with a coding team to develop an augmented reality lens using Snapchat geolocation for the mural, which is being officially unveiled at this week’s Fridays on Front on Aug. 16.

A free, interactive circus arts festival taking place at Westminster Pier Park on Sunday, Aug. 25 is the third project being funded this year. Inspired by his daughter’s enjoyment of circus arts, resident Peter Leblanc has been working with the Vancouver Circus School, West Coast Flying Trapeze (owned by downtown New West residents) and others to offer workshops and demonstrations from 3 to 6 p.m., culminating in a circus show at 6 p.m.

“Through the workshops and demonstrations, the organizers will ensure there are opportunities for all to participate regardless of experience or skill level,” said the press release. “The beauty of circus is it transcends language and delights all.”

For more details about the Festival of Circus Arts, go to www.circusarts.ca or check out the Festival of Circus Arts page on Facebook.

The Downtown New West BIA, with some assistance from the City of New Westminster’s partnership grant program, is funding the three winning submissions for $3,500 each and is supporting these three projects by making connections, guiding the applicants through any applicable permit processes, and providing marketing and promotional support.

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