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Grad Profile: Making Cities Places for Play
After several years working in community art and theatre, Jeremy Banks decided to turn his attention to a new canvas: urban life.
“I was really impressed and amazed by how people coming together can make beautiful art, and after doing that for a while I started to think about how people coming together could make beautiful cities too,” says the Bachelor of Community Design student, graduating from Dalhousie this week.
“It’s very much about bringing people together and helping shape the communities we live in,” he says of his degree.
Jeremy has been able to connect his ideas and inspirations in the classroom to some exciting, real-world applications. The first weekend he arrived in Halifax, the B.C. native (originally from Parksville) came across a Switch Halifax event, organized through the Planning and Design Centre — an “Open Street Sunday” at which 2 km of streets were closed to car traffic, making them available for all sorts of different activities and modes of transportation.
“I thought that was the most incredible thing, to see what happens when you switch off cars and you switch on people. The entire street came to life with music and vendors and parties. And I fell in love with it.”
For the past two years, he’s volunteered with the organization. Now, he’s coordinating this Sunday’s Switch Dartmouth event, which will transform Portland Street into a vibrant event space.
Hitting the right note
Jeremy, together with classmate Peter Nightingale, is also responsible for an initiative that transforms urban space in a more musical fashion. Started in 2015, #PlayMeHFX involved placing colourful pianos at various locations around Halifax — ones anyone could use — during the summer months.
What began as “two guys with a dream,” as Jeremy cheekily describes it, became more formalized last year and for 2017 is going province-wide. #PlayMeNovaScotia will see a special piano tour cities and towns across the province this summer, in celebration of the province (and Canada) turning 150 this year. The effort is sponsored by the provincial Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
“A painted piano downtown becomes a place that people hang out and linger,” says Jeremy. “It becomes a place for the community to get involved and play, to showcase themselves or their friends or even just watch someone and really rethink or reconsider places they walk past on a daily basis and don’t think of.
“As an artist, it’s one of the ways we can be playful, cost-effective and innovative around making the places we live more fun.”
Tying it all together
He says one of the proudest moments of his time at Dal was when he was able to share some exciting news with profs like Frank Palermo and Eric Rapaport. The news: that he had been accepted to present his work on #PlayMeHFX at the UN Summit for the Future of Places in Vancouver last year.
“For me, it really tied together the value of the things I’d learned here and how incredible and important it is to be thinking about some of these crazy art projects as critical tools for the future of cities,” says Jeremy, who hopes to stay and work in Halifax after graduation. “It connects social, economic and environmental factors together to make cities even better places to live.”
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