In Element’s development of its proud flagship, OPAL by elementTM, we have successfully proposed an innovative alternate way of meeting the City of Vancouver’s requirement for Public Art Contribution. The City of Vancouver has embraced our proposal to redirect the public art allocation, in the value of $235,671, from the site of a new, “aging-in-place” retirement residence, to support a unique pilot program that will bring together a professional artist and group of seniors to develop a public art project over an extended period of time. The project, with its focus on the interests and perspectives of seniors, will be hosted by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Arts & Health, Healthy Aging Through the Arts. As an effort to connect and engage our residents with the local community, the program will be open to seniors in the neighbourhood. Senior participants will be invited to share their skills and experience as agents of change within their community and beyond.
Early in the process of public art planning, the Element Lifestyle Retirement team wanted the benefits of the public art project to be directed to seniors in the community. With the desire to reach out to elders beyond Opal residents and to attract the attention of a broader viewing public, the idea for the Agents of Change project took shape and was fine-tuned through input from the City of Vancouver Public Art Committee and Public Art Program and Park Board staff. The goal is for seniors to spark a movement that inspires a positive mindset to perceive and experience retirement as an opportunity to live creatively, freely and fully. Element is harnessing the Public Art Program as a catalyst to shift society’s perspective on the senior stage of life away from on aging and degeneration, and towards exploration and expression of passions, interests and skills.
Carrying forward a focus on seniors and the proven positive benefits of art and health, the project will use the city as a field of investigation and the activity spaces of a local community centre as the locus for ideas.
As a durational project with evolving objectives and participant driven outcomes, the questions of what form the public artwork will take and where it will be located will be addressed through phases of research and experimentation.
An important aspect of the project will be its documentation from beginning to end, for how, in academic and artistic terms, the project addresses the benefits of art in relation to health in elders while also chronicling the complexities of working across cultural, economic, and social differences. Ripe for friction (in the most positive sense), yet poised for meaningful legacy, we anticipate that the culminating public artwork and the documentation of its evolution, will address the challenges our aging population faces when assuming agency in the contemporary life of our urban centres.
This approach to creating public art is one based on trust. Trust in our elders to act on their values, trust in the selected artist for their ability to both listen and lead, and trust in the process of building relationships amongst partners and participants to challenge the status quo and to offer new perspectives about aging in the 21st Century.
With its fundamental model and philosophy rooted in the concepts of “continuum of lifestyles” and “aging in place”, Element will address both the needs and interests of fully independent seniors, alongside those requiring assisted living and complex care services.
Element has formed focus groups and are currently conducting research into the kinds of arts and recreational programming they will offer at each of its residences. An arts and workshop room will provide space to deliver a visual arts program developed in response to the resident’s interests. Groups interested in theatre, dance, music and other performing arts will have access to flex studios designed to accommodate both exercise and cultural programs.
The process is anticipated to:
This is a unique, multi-phased art opportunity for an artist interested in socially engaged practice to work with a group of seniors over an extended period to develop a public art project that positions older people as agents of change within their local community and the city beyond. The duration of the project would depend on the selected artist and materials used. Administration of the public art fund will depend on the structure agreed upon between OPAL by element and the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Committee. At this time, the Detailed Public Art Plan is still in development in collaboration with the Public Art Committee.
Once the Detailed Public Art Plan is finalized, the initiative will begin. Following a research and concept development stage, first as self-directed inquiry and then in collaboration over three semesters with the seniors working group, the artist will propose a location for the artwork, timeline, and work plan for the artwork’s production and installation. It is understood this public art project will evolve over time in response to input from the project partners and participants. The final phase of the project will involve public outreach and reporting of the process from beginning to end.
PHASES OF DEVELOPMENT
PHASE 1. RESEARCH AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
PHASE 2. PILOT – RESEARCH AND CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT IN COLLABORATION WITH SENIORS
PHASE 3. RESEARCH AND CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT IN COLLABORATION WITH SENIORS
PHASE 4. ARTWORK DETAILED DESIGN, FABRICATION, INSTALLATION OR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION
PHASE 5. PUBLIC OUTREACH, DOCUMENTATION, FINAL REPORTING: Public artwork launch and celebration; Documentation of the project released – assessment of health benefits; Final project reporting to relevant authorities responsible for the outcome of the Public Art Program