When David Rauch and Edmonton’s Poet Laureate Mary Pinkoski see sidewalks these days, their minds come (even more!) alive with the opportunity to open people’s minds and make walking in the City a self-satisfying experience.
They’ve teamed up, you see, to use sidewalks and other flat surfaces as canvases upon which to bring you a 7-stanza, 162-word poem that Mary wrote about the vibrancy of life in Edmonton.
In the spring, David, a business analyst with the city’s Sustainable Development department, flashed on the concept of the project he calls Concrete Poetry. It took him all summer and a pile of persistence to work out the logistics of what at first seemed like it should have been dead-easy.
“The first challenge is that chalking anything on city sidewalks is illegal if it isn’t a city program. It took a while, but I give full marks to Corporate Communications, Transportation and Parks for having the vision to allow us to chalk the poem.”
The second problem was to experiment with different methods of creating a chalk spray that would look crisp when the stencil is lifted, and would last only 30 days, since permanence was not the idea. After lots of experimentation, he found a special marking chalk that made the grade.
Even acquiring the 2-foot by 3-foot stencils was a hurdle that needed jumping. Though his department encouraged him to pursue innovative projects that deliver value to citizens in new ways, he nevertheless had no budget to work with.
“Eventually, I found someone eager to help…for free!”
David’s an expert in sweet-talking people and businesses into donating all manner of services and things, including the two upright pianos that he’s left for the public to play in various high-traffic outdoor locations in a project he calls #OpenPianoYEG.
Now David and Mary are looking for suggestions for locations where the poem can be sprayed, one stanza to a square of concrete. They’ve done one ‘spray’ at Sir Winston Churchill Square, and they’ve offered to do the stenciling for anyone who wants to display the poem in their neighborhood community.
David’s inventive mind is already working on improvements.
“I’ve found a source for glow-in-the-dark chalk spray, and I can’t wait to try it out.
“It’s going to be so cool.”