Friday, July 24, 2009

Public Art and Green Scapes Add to the Aesthetics of the Community

In the past couple of years, public art and green space improvements have started to play a bigger role in the evolution of Thunder Bay's cultural, social and economic fabric. From the creation of the Clean Green and Beautiful initiative, with a mandate to improve the aesthetics of the community, to increased exposure of organizations such as Eco Superior and various community arts groups, Thunder Bay's cultural and economic revolution is exciting.
This directly impacts Thunder Bay's tourism economy positively in that these initiatives improve the aesthetics of the community and speak to its cultural roots. These elements are important to making first impressions on visitors and even influence their decision to extend their stay or return. People want to visit where there is positive energy. Its a simple as that.

Public Art at Marina Park, murals within the downtown cores, the raised gardens added to the water street bus terminal and the soon to be started public green space at the newly renovated City Hall are all positive contributors to improving the look of the city and increasing the urban "vibe", that sense of positive energy that residents and visitors alike absorb. These initiatives are also considered part of the city's sustainable tourism strategy by creating exciting public green spaces and creating opportunities for the local arts community.

Pool 6 is a prime example. Docking a 5 star expedition cruise ship at a former industrial site currently under environmental assessment has posed challenges. Without the ability to complete permanent infrastructure such as landscaping and paving until the outcome of the assessment, we have cut the grass, installed planters along the dock, painted and installed welcome gateway signage. We've erected a tipi to celebrate our Anishnawbic Roots and have actually encouraged visitors to stroll through the spray painted rubble piles to take pictures of the "graffiti art", a public and impromptu art display that has actually become an attraction for the vessel passengers rather than a perceived eyesore to us.

While the city and a collection of like minded organizations have lead the way, there is a role for everyone. It always irks me to read people complaining about the "costs" of these initiatives rather than seeing them as investments in community development and its sad to see such short sightedness from folks who are all too often, the last to roll up their sleeves and do their part to make the city better. Who doesn't want to see a city become more attractive? Yes, the city has areas that need attention and guess what? So does every other small, medium and large city in North America right now. We've seen investments made in eradicating derelict buildings and allowing lands to become redeveloped. We see public and community gardens springing up and we're seeing more people doing their part. My job takes me to all corners of North America annually and I can honestly say, we're ahead of so many other cities.

In the tourism industry, there is so much that each of us can do to improve the "vibe" for visitors. Planting gardens and trees and commissioning local artists to paint murals that celebrate our heritage. It can also include bundling a night's stay at a hotel with local cuisine and a trip to Magnus theatre, the symphony or a stop at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Improving your business's green aesthetics does not have to be costly either. A trip to a garden center and a staff planting day are all it takes to do ones part.

Exciting times are upon us in the City and the tourism industry has a chance to make its mark on improving the cultural vibe of the City. There has been a lot of work done and a lot more to do but the city current economic and cultural environment have allowed it to become one big blank canvas with room for more creative and positive influences to shine.

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