On Friday, August 10th, I went to Assiniboine Park to do street art (chalk). A semi-frequent activity of mine these past two summers, though I don't consider myself much of a visual artist, I was attracted to the idea of street art and enjoy doing it for fun. After being welcomed into the community and encouraged to keep coming back, I kept at it.
I was going to do a piece of semi-abstract design, with a stanza of a poem I wrote, extending from the foot bridge over the Assiniboine River to the road inside the park. I planned to be there for several hours. I put out my busking hat and began to work.
What happened next, I talk about in an email I sent around to the community, and later posted it on Facebook. You can see the note here (and please keep sharing it!) After Kelly Hughes stepped up and shared the FB note on the 21st, it took off and was shared hundreds of times, and is still being shared. By the way, you can return Kelly's goodwill by helping him out.
The events with security and the police in response to my grave, sinister crime of (legally) doing street art with chalk is also detailed today in Gordon Sinclair Jr's column in the Winnipeg Free Press.
So far I have received dozens of messages on Facebook and by email of support. They all have the same things in common; expressing their outrage at the City, at the Park, at the Police. The sheer amount of emails and messages I have receieved over the past few days is overwhelming and very heartwarming to know that Winnipeg is behind me on this.
Today's post is for everyone who has contacted me....thank you so much. Your messages keep my spirits up during this whole situation. The following is a sample of some of the messages I have received.
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Aw, I wondered where Graham's art went, I bike by there every day, and I loved the work he did! This really sucks....
It seems that Winnipeg's venerable, world-renown PUBLIC park is having something of a problem identifying as public. Questionable management priorities, fingers of local politicians, law enforcement confusion, suppression of local artists - what is going on here, people?
Isn't this park (always referred to as "City Park" when I lived in Wpg) still a PUBLIC park? Maybe talk to your City Councillor? The minimum you should expect is a PUBLIC apology!
I have always loved seeing the chalk art as I ride through the park. And what is this "privatized" business?
Banning sidewalk chalk art in a public park?! Seriously?!
Apparently, chalk art at Assiniboine Park is now illegal. Is all art at Assiniboine Park now illegal? And when did Assiniboine Park become a private park? Like, what the hell?
I know!! I have a friend who works for 311 and gets calls about Assiniboine Park all the time, but they can't do anything, because it's privatized. (Graham's note: This is true. I called 311 myself prior to the 10th, they do not answer any questions regarding Assiniboine Park.)
Think, people travel to Europe and enjoy the lifestyle, the chalk art. Here they ban it.
He once had a quote from Kierkegaard (Graham's note: I have never quoted Kierkegaard. But glad whomever I did quote at the time had the impact!), which i spied in the middle of my 10k run. It almost made me stop, because i was brooding about it for the next half km.
Is Assiniboine Park Private Property or Public Property? Some of it is poetry. His drawings aren't like paintings on the side of a van.
This makes me want to grab my chalk, head to the park and create a civil disobedience movement via hopscotch.
Assiniboine Park should remain a place of freedom to express beauty, and rest to all artists and visitors alike. This is not an expression of gang tagging and should be encouraged with enthusiasm.
For my whole life, Assiniiboine Park has been a place for people to go to play, share and enjoy. Not it would appear that their enjoyment is regulated and limited. A simple thing like drawing on the sidewalk in chalk is being prevented to the detriment of all Winnipeggers. Apparently this would also apply to any kind of busker who might wish to pull out a guitar or just sing at the park. This is NOT private property, as long as my tax dollars go into it. This is a public park where artist MUST have a right to express themselves. I haven't been to the Park yet this summer, nor do I think I would wish to go, knowing that this is the way people are treated there. This is a sad day for Winnipeg. That park is one of our treasures.
I moved to Winnipeg 3 years ago, but I kept leaving during the summers to busk around other parts of the world. The art scene in Winnipeg, combined with the attitudes of most Winnipegers I've met has made this city my favourite on the planet! I love it here. (Graham's emphasis) But this is my first summer in the city, and thus the first time I've attempted much busking. I've never been hassled as much in my life as I have in the last two months. Street performing has become so over-regulated in this city. I'm really glad that you're speaking out against it.
You are creating beauty, and bringing people together with your art. It's wonderful to see and I hope you keep doing it!
I live right next to the park and I remember seeing such art there last year - it was beautiful. Please let me know how I can help.
I love walking by and seeing your art and seeing random musicians playing near the bridge as well. I think it only adds to the community spirit that makes the park so wonderful to visit. I have seen you on a multiple occassions and you are always friendly and peaceful. I am shocked this happened and hope everything works out for you, your art is beautiful.
I'd like to sign on to your letter to city council regarding street art in Winnipeg and your treatment in Assiniboine Park. I am so sorry to hear this has happened. I walk in the park every weekend and had been wondering why I hadn't seen your work there in a while. Now I know. You do such fabulous work and I enjoy discovering each new piece. Quite frankly, they make my heart happy and bring a smile to my face.
I am an art student in Winnipeg, and I heard about what happened with the police, and think it is absolutely wrong. I have walked past your chalk drawings most days and I love them. Personally I think art is all this city has going for it. I will sign your petition.
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Again, thank you, everyone, for all your amazing support.
More to come.