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Marvelling at Streets Alive's maples masterpieces

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Orillia's streets are alive for summer once again.

This year's Streets Alive was launched Saturday, shutting down Peter Street between Mississaga and Colborne to show off the 50 pieces of street art which will grace the downtown between now and Thanksgiving.

The maple masterpieces were installed along Mississaga Street Saturday night, admit torrential downpours and a tornado warning.

Getting soaked was worth it though for Leslie Fournier, founder and project manager of Streets Alive, and her team of volunteers. This is art that needs to be experienced.

“Every project, when the artists bring the work out, it blows me away and exceeds my expectations every single time,” she said during the day-long kick-off party on Peter Street. “The idea only takes you so far. What the artists bring, the magic they bring to the project, you can't even imagine it until you see it live.”

Maple masterpieces was the theme for Streets Alive 2017. Artists were tasked with creating unique artwork on a three-dimensional maple leaf sculpture, which stands about 5 1/2' tall and 4' wide. As 2017 marks the 150th anniversaries of confederation and the incorporation of Orillia as a town, each side of the maple leaf was to highlight each of the entities.

For Bernie Logan, that mean remembering back to her youth. On one side, four stained glass interpretations of Canada were presented; on the back, a sculpture of Couchiching Park as it would have appeared in the 1970s.

“Muscle cars, hanging out the park, cruising around the park, hanging out with your friends, swimming off the town dock,” she recalled. “We spent our youths at Couchiching Park. That's what you did.”

Ana Zingg had a cornucopia of memories on the Orillia portions of her maple leaf. She had so much material she used two of the four surfaces available on the sculpture.

“It's just a mish-mash of Orillia stuff,” she said, pointing to newspaper clippings, advertisements and old photos from the city used in her artwork. “If you live in Orillia, you'll find something on there. You either know somebody or remember something.”

Her Canadian side featured featured mirrors placed throughout the sculpture, that not only reflected the ice and the water, but also allowed people looking at the artwork to see themselves in Canada.

This year will be the last year for Streets Alive as we know it. The event isn't ending, but 2018 will bring changes, Fournier said. But she insists change isn't bad.

“Change can be a good thing,” she said. “Because we've done eight major sculptures, we have lots and lots of sculptures that we will put on the street each and ever year... but there's other public spaces that need creativity. There's alleyways, there's the Peter Street art block, the farmers' market, parks. The focus will probably be taken a public space and creating an incredible, visual streetscape.”

The best of Streets Alive will be chosen by the general public. Ballots are available at Jack and Maddy, Orillia Museum of Art and History and Carousel Collectables and are due by Aug. 25 at noon. The winners will be announced during the Starry Night art crawl Aug. 26.

Until then, there may not be another street in the entire country with the artistic vibrancy of Mississaga Street.

“Can you see another streetscape in all of Canada that will look like Orillia's” Fournier asked rhetorically. “That's the special, uniqueness of this project; you won't see it anywhere else in Canada.”

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