- 295 Portage Avenue
With the very first Urban Art Gallery project in Dollarama’s 295 Portage Ave. location, the community art display was used to transform what could have been an eyesore – something that could’ve been discouraging for business, into a vibrant element in the community.
In 2013, Dollarama’s storefront façade was enhanced, but at the same time, it blacked out its windows to allow for more display shelving in the store.
Blacked-out windows not only don’t look very inviting or add to the visual appeal of a neighbourhood – they sometimes make people mistake a place for being closed.
Luckily, the property owners of the building, Gendis Inc., saw an opportunity to replicate something they’d seen in their travels: beautify an unsightly element with an urban art gallery.
“Art has the ability to bring communities together, build a common experience, promote communication, and improve the visual landscape of a city block,” says Gendis’ Linda McGarva-Cohen. “A gallery of images is more enticing than a bank of blacked-out windows to draw people in and notice your property in a positive light.”
Plus, “it gives owners, employees and customers a sense of feeling connected to something larger than the business or themselves, thus developing a greater sense of civic pride.”
At the same time Gendis was having these thoughts, the leader of the Placemaking Committee for the Downtown BIZ, Stephanie Voyce, was looking to extend a restaurant patio into the Dollarama space, and mentioned using art over the windows.
The idea spurred a collaboration on the Urban Art Gallery project – which got pitched as an ongoing beautification initiative to the Downtown BIZ.
Needless to say, it was successful, and now, the project has taken over the windows of Portage Place’s food court, and has spawned a brand-new placemaking initiative for backlanes to become destination areas.
Each year, the Urban Art Gallery draws submissions from the public, with winners awarded a $500 honourarium. It keeps the content fresh and engages the public – fittingly, in the process that will become art in the community.