Duke Street East Placemaking Group
This was an incredibly expansive and rewarding neighbourhood project we completed in 2019. We began putting together ideas and applied for our first grant in 2016/2017, and were awarded the $20,000 Placemaking Grant from the the City of Kitchener in 2018 to turn it into reality! We are also lucky to have an amazing school down the street, and had the assistance of many Cameron Heights students on paint day.
Below is the neighbourhood letter we sent out to explain our crazy idea and gather support. For all the details, please visit our Facebook Page to see the journey we took.
The finale of the whole project was a street party, including Dances performed by the Contemporary School of Dance, brought to our neighbourhood by The Registry Theatre. We dined together on food from Fresh Ground (seriously, amazing catering, and the money goes right back into the community!), created some more art together, played board games, did a bicycle safety relay, and danced!
Yes, there is a next step, as it rained after we painted the crosswalks, and we have had heavy construction in the area since we painted. We will be getting together again in 2021 to do touch-ups and have another street party! We even have the financing taken care of as we had leftover funds from the first painting and we know what needs to happen to make it successful! We will be reaching out to the community in the early winter of 2021 to begin organizing this, and look forward to getting the first group together and bringing in some new neighbours to help out too.
Duke Street East is an important corridor within our community. On this one-way stretch, we hang out, we skateboard, bike and learn to bike, we play street hockey and walk to work and school, we create art, we hold street parties and crazy neighbourhood dance festivals.
Our neighbourhood is without a park or traditional community space, but we have our front porches and this street that connects us.
Why Paint the Street?
Traffic: Weber street, which runs parallel to this street, is about to be torn up for construction. There is concern over the increased traffic volume and speed this will bring to Duke Street East. We don’t want to lose this gathering spot, and to be separated from our neighbours by impatient drivers, and painting the street will not only create interest for those living here, it will indicate to those passing through that this is a community, and not a place to race through.
Beauty: Duke street is missing a cohesive visual element in its design that would bring together all the wonderful and different home styles to create a space that feels connected – particularly on the Cameron to Cedar stretch. This would be a great way to create that visual connection, and to inspire further efforts like tree planting, flags, or pedestrian-level lighting.
Walkability: This is the preferred walking (and biking) path for everyone living or passing through the area. When we put up the bunting for porch view dances, it made the walk an experience rather than just a means to an end. The atmosphere of the street became cheery and curious, which is not just fun to explore, but also beneficial to the mental health of anyone who may be living or traveling through the area.
Design and History: The pattern that our artists came up with is based on Mennonite quilting – this area has deep mennonite roots. It also incorporates a directional element to help remind drivers of the one-way nature of the street – we frequently have people travelling the wrong way in their car, and fast, down the street.
This is about our community, and we need your involvement to make it a success! What could you do to help out?
Planning: We need help organizing volunteers, connecting with the necessary city officials, and documenting the process. Skills: organized, self-driven, and good with communication.
Installation: We need our neighbours to help paint during the installation days! There are two different roles for this.
Plotting the Design
There are the complicated ‘medallion’ designs, and there are the simpler, rectangular, herringbone ones (which require less technical skills). Skills: Precise artistic or geometric rendering, not afraid of having an audience.
Filling in the Colour
Many hands makes for light work on this one! It’s like a giant colouring book. Skills: All ages, so long as you can follow directions and get down to the ground to paint.
Neighbourhood Placemaking Challenge Day – July 28-30: This is the weekend of celebration! We need to animate our space by getting neighbours out and interacting with each other and our newly-enhanced surroundings. We are discussing closing the street and having a giant potluck down the middle and games in the street at the ends.