Institute of Public Art and Sustainability

Tackling issues like equity, inclusivity and ecological resilience in the arts sector.

About the project:

Public art can contribute to thriving public spaces, build community, elevate marginalized perspectives and boost mental health and well-being. It can also surprise and delight.

 

For all its benefits, we know that public art produces vast amounts of material waste, which ends up in landfills. It can also be hard for Indigenous and racialized artists and arts workers to find stable work in the public art sector, making it inequitable and exclusionary. For public art to truly contribute to great public places, we need to address these systemic issues.

 

This is the motivation behind the Institute for Public Art and Sustainability (IPAS). As an evolution of the Evergreen Public Art Program, IPAS combines research and practice to support both environmental and artist sustainability.

 

Let’s imagine bold new ways for public art to be sustainable for the planet and for the people who make it.

Governance

Curatorial Team:

  • Charlene K. Lau: art historian, critic, and Curator of Public Art at Evergreen
  • Alexis Nanibush-Pamajewong: Two-Spirit Anishinaabe interdisciplinary artist, Curatorial Assistant at Evergreen

Community Directors:

  • Susan Blight: Anishinaabe artist from Couchiching First Nation, Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and Assistant Professor (Faculty of Arts and Science), OCAD University
  • Suzanne Carte: Senior Curator, Art Gallery of Burlington
  • Kelly Jazvac: Artist and Associate Professor (Studio Arts), Concordia University
  • Ange Loft: Kanien’kehá:ka interdisciplinary performing artist, workshop facilitator, arts-based researcher
  • Kirsty Robertson: Associate Professor (Contemporary Art and Museum and Curatorial Studies), Director of Museum and Curatorial Studies
  • Jacqueline L. Scott: scholar, writer and activist on race and nature, volunteer land steward and hike leader

Partners:

  • Artist Material Fund
  • OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program
  • Synthetic Collective
  • Centre for Sustainable Curating
  • The Bentway

Public art as a lever for change

Tackling obstacles in the Canadian arts ecosystem.

Create and produce public art that tells the Indigenous, cultural, ecological, and industrial histories of the Evergreen Brick Works site and surrounding ravine system.

Collaborate with community partners to build a more equitable, sustainable and resilient arts sector.

Engage artists and arts workers from Indigenous and racialized communities, sharing land, space, resources and amenities at Evergreen Brick Works.

Use research on public art and sustainability to inform practice.

Use the power of the arts to create better public spaces for all.

What this looks like

IPAS will scale activities that support environmental and artist sustainability in 2024-2026. Here’s what we’re working on: 

  • Building a Circle of Community Directors
    IPAS established a non-hierarchical and decolonized governance model of seven Community Directors, including Kanien’kehá:ka interdisciplinary performing artist Ange Loft and writer and scholar Jacqueline L Scott. Their governance of public art at Evergreen Brick Works is making one of Toronto’s most popular public spaces (500,000 visitors annually) better reflect Indigenous and racialized stories of the land. 
  • Pathways to Employment for Indigenous Artists
    Through our partnership with the Indigenous Visual Culture (INVC) Program at OCAD University, we have welcomed Alexis Nanibush-Pamajewong, Curatorial Assistant, Indigenous Arts, from INVC and offered workshops on the land for INVC students. Additional funding was secured for a public art project with emerging Anishinaabe artist and OCAD U graduate Quinn Hopkins. This project will launch in June 2024. 
  • Artist Material Fund
    This waste diversion event collects arts waste from 20+ arts institutions and redistributes it for free to underresourced artists. Our pilot program in May 2023 welcomed 300 artists and diverted 8 truckloads (686 cubic feet) of waste from landfill. Stay tuned for more events. 
  • Cycles
    A strategic planning process informed by seasonal cycles facilitated by IPAS Community Director Ange Loft. This process aims to decolonize programming cycles and will help guide Evergreen staff in planning future public art at Evergreen Brick Works.  
  • Sustainability Guide
    IPAS partners researched, wrote, and published a sustainability guide for public arts. We distributed 300 printed guides, collected 5,000 website hits for the digital guide, and saw 78,000+ digital impressions. 
  • Public Art & Sustainability Symposium
    IPAS is partnering with The Bentway, a public space underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway that provides a year-round program of events and activities. Together, we’re developing strategies for public art and sustainability, including leading a panel on circular economies in the arts sector at their Public Art & Sustainability Symposium.  

A Public (Art) Notice

In summer 2023, we teamed up with Synthetic Collective, Centre for Sustainable Curating and The Bentway to start a dialogue about sustainable approaches to public art. This resulted in “A Public (Art) Notice,” a free poster and downloadable guide promoting more environmentally conscious ways to curate, create and produce public art. We see this as the start of a vital conversation for the field.

 

For additional information and resources related to this project, please visit Synthetic Collective online.

“Contemporary art is struggling for sustainability. There are these challenges of environmental degradation and the difficulty for racialized artists and artworkers to sustain themselves due to systemic barriers. Indigenous and racialized artists are still not appropriately represented on arts governing bodies in Canada.” 

Charlene K. Lau
Curator of Public Art Program, Evergreen
Supported by

The Institute for Public Art and Sustainability is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and Toronto Arts Council.

In partnership with

The Institute for Public Art and Sustainability is a partnership between Evergreen, Artist Material Fund, OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program, Synthetic Collective, Centre for Sustainable Curating and The Bentway.

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