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New art gives Downtown Guelph walkway a new look (8 photos)

Artists transform The Walkway into an accessible outdoor art exhibit in Guelph’s downtown core

A project to revitalize The Walkway in Guelph’s downtown core offers passersby an opportunity to take in local art in a unique space.

The Walkway Project allowed members of the Necessary Arts Collective (NAC) to beautify the space by painting the pillars throughout the sunroof-lit walway that connects St. George's Square with the Baker Street Parking lot.

The City of Guelph funded the project through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund which is a $30 million province-wide fund dedicated to stimulating the tourism economy and safely bringing visitors back into local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was kind of cool because all of the artists were already committed free of charge,” said Chanel DesRoches, local artist and owner of the NAC studio. “But the city paid us for our time and the Downtown Guelph Business Association pitched in for materials so it was really this last-minute huge community engagement opportunity.”

Artist Amber Ozols said her succulent-inspired series is about death and loss, but Ozols uses colour to try to bring happiness to the observers of her technicolour pieces.

“You can still tell that it looks like a plant or a flower but they’re all just succulents that I have digitally altered or I do sketches of them on-sight and bring them out here,” said Ozols.

Robert John Paterson, a freelance illustrator, based his design off the dimensions of his pillar before starting to paint his Canadian landscape-inspired tower just outside of the downtown post office.

“Coming up with a design that was really tall and skinny is pretty challenging,” Paterson said. “Most times when you compose an image it’s rectangle or square but this is like colouring on the side of a cigarette.”

On Sunday, the final pieces were unveiled and members of the public were able to walk through the footpath and enjoy the artists’ creations. Members of the public were also able to take a tour of the newly renovated Necessary Arts building.

“The fact that people know about us based on what they see online, or based on a short conversation based on what they see here (the walkway) and sparking potential interest … That is everything,” DesRoches said. “The thing about art is that it’s a side hobby now until you’re think you’re ready to make a jump and we can be that small or big jump.”