I number of years ago, I spent Christmas in Cuba. Whenever, I am travelling somewhere new or simply walking around the town I live in, I take note of the art. I especially am intrigued by the impromptu art; the art that isn’t commissioned or curated. I love when artists will turn an unpleasant site into something palatable or use an unassuming background and make something remarkable. The first image is a painting in Matanzas. I then went to Havana, and noted the following painting. Clearly something about both of them intrigued me. It wasn’t until I was back home in Canada, and going through my album, that I noted, both of these mural paintings were done by the same artist! This thrilled me to no end! I felt like I had solved a mystery. The artist will never know the gift they gave me, nor the pleasure I received from figuring this out. That’s one of things I love about public art, the joys unknown.
I don’t know who the artist is, but I think this is one of my favourite graffiti pieces. Its in Old Winnipeg on a gravel bike path, located in South Point Douglas along the waterfront. The image is long gone now. The graffiti down there gets covered up every couple of months. One of my favourite things to do when I live or visit a city is look for evidence of cultural grit. So much love coming off this image, in an area down by the river, with winter camps and riverside fires.
I walked into the Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut. I saw several women, of all ages sitting on the floor working on a massive sewing. They were telling their story of Residential School. “when the plane came to take the children away”.
I sat down beside them. I admired their fine stitching, their delicate cutting, their long hours on the floor bent over working on their wall hanging. I was in complete awe. They were telling and sharing their story. The older women were teaching the younger women. They let me laugh with them. They shared their story with me. They shared their cultural grit with me.
Cultural grit. I said it in class the other day. I wasn’t sure exactly what I meant - but it was in reference to what makes a good urban place. Grit is perseverance. Its strength. Its effort. Its “stick-it-to-iveness”. When I go to a place I want to see the work and industry and strength of place.
I also want to see its art and beauty and legend and culture.
I met this artist the other day. I asked if I could take his picture - he said it was fine. I bought a beautiful drawing of an owl. Its on my fridge. I don’t know him. But from my developing definition of cultural grit - I think he adds to it. My guess is that he has grit - and I know that he added so much beauty to that day.