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Project 104 students help combat graffiti damage in Crescent Park with new artwork

The art installation helps combat graffiti on the park's Public Comfort Station

The Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) invited the public to attend the unveiling of a new work of art made by the Project 104 High School Arts Collective Graffiti Team at Crescent Park on Nov. 16.

The latest installation is part of a series of works that cover up or help prevent graffiti at numerous high-traffic vandalism hotspots in the city.

Present at the unveiling were Police Chief Rick Bourassa, Cori Saas with the Prairie South School Division, and artists from Project 104’s graffiti team who created the artwork. Project 104 was created through a partnership with the MJPS, Prairie South School Division, the City of Moose Jaw, and the city’s Public Art Committee.

The work is titled ‘A Walk Through the Park,’ and is made from an exterior latex paint. To complete the signature black lines that produce the stained-glass window effect, an oil-based paint marker was used. The reason for the title is simple: as you walk around the building, the artwork takes you on a symbolic journey through the park.

“All of the panels had to connect to the (city’s heritage) — the city was clear on that,” explained Saas. One requirement was for the installation to avoid art that was colonial, with the goal being to honour the site in a neutral manner.

“Basically, the police are seeing the high amounts of graffiti around Moose Jaw. It costs a lot of money to cover it up… so they were trying to think of ideas on how to combat it before it’s there in the first place,” said Emma Rowlinson, the lead artist for the project.

“That’s when Daily Lennox (the city’s park supervisor), (Cori) Saas, and everyone met. We came up with this idea to cover it with art that will stay there for a long period of time,” Rowlinson said.

The location presented a unique challenge, as Crescent Parks’ Public Comfort Station is listed as a heritage building and comes with a set of strict regulations to abide by.

“The main challenge was not being able to touch the building itself,” Rowlinson said. Her original design incorporated the outside of the window frame, but after learning about the heritage regulations, she altered the design to make sure it was compliant.  

Before starting, Rowlinson and her team consulted with an historian from the Public Art Committee to find the best approach for the project.

Rowlinson then got to work immediately, and following the parameters set out by the committee, she visited the Moose Jaw Public Library to find inspiration.

“I was at the library archives with my mom looking at old pictures of Crescent Park,” Rowlinson said.

“There were some beautiful bridges and some really interesting architecture that used to be down here. I wanted to be able to capture that… just so more people can know what it used to look like, because I thought it was beautiful.”

The pictures Rowlinson discovered include the original wooden bridges installed in the 1930s.

Rowlinson found the perfect style while watching a movie in her down time. “(T)he opening scene from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was telling the story through stained glass images, so I thought that was a wonderful idea – telling a story through flat images like that… It worked out really well for this site,” she said.

Rowlinson was a student at Peacock when she started working on the project, and today she’s attending the Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary.

“I’ve always been doing art ever since I was little,” she said. “I got more into it in high school. I had a really good art teacher… and he inspired me to just create more.”

If there’s one defining characteristic of Rowlinson’s artistic style, it’s her use of colour. “Colour is really important to me. I think it’s a deciding factor (as to whether) the art’s good or not,” she expressed.

“A lot of colours that I put in my murals are inspired by colours around my house,” she explained. “I’ve grown up in a house that is always super colourful… so I like to be able to reflect that in outside spaces as well.”

In her address, Saas recognized the dedication of the Project 104 team, who at the time of the project were still working on their final exams.

“I just want to say, we are a very small but mighty team. (The members) are very creative,” Saas announced.

Saas also recognized Police Chief Rick Bourassa, representing the MJPS who helps cover the cost of supplies on each of the group’s graffiti projects.

“It was the perfect fit. It was an opportunity for the students to express their talent and to contribute to our community being better. It has met a lot of those targets that we have,” Bourassa said.

The Public Art Committee helped fund this project, as well as a journeyman carpenter who volunteered to measure and cut the materials free of charge.

Now that the project is completed, the group will continue making other colourful improvements around town. Since 2014, the collective has produced around 14 local murals.   

“I’ve done two (art installations) so far with Project 104,” Rowlinson said. “And then, because of this, I’ve gotten more opportunities to do more murals… so that has been wonderful…”

Rowlinson and her team’s next project will be announced in the spring of 2024.

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