Art boxes return
“Time Stops” pieces allowed on utility poles in Waterloo
WATERLOO — Six months after bylaw officers had local artist Paul Roorda remove his art pieces from utility poles in Waterloo, he managed to get them back up again.
For May and June, Roorda has permission from the city to hang 16 of his “Time Stops” art pieces on utility poles in different parts of Waterloo. Currently, 14 of those pieces are up in the Mary Allen neighbourhood.
“I’m really happy to see all the work up again,” said Roorda, a resident of Waterloo who was Kitchener’s artist in residence in 2007.
Each of the “Time Stops” are displayed in old metal cash boxes that have had their tops replaced with glass. Inside each locked box are vintage items, including postcards, photos of flooding or weather forecasting, old clocks, barometers, vials of water and collages.
The aim of the mini galleries is to send a
subtle, poetic and cryptic warning about climate change, said Roorda.
“So if (people) are walking in the rain or if they’re walking in the heat of a heat wave, they’re experiencing the weather and looking at the Time Stop boxes, which are a gentle warning about the climate changing,” he said.
All the art pieces have a windup musical element and, more recently, a small label inside the boxes indicating it is an art project. The label also shares a website where people can learn more about the artist and get a map of all the box locations.
The boxes didn’t always have the identifying labels.
Last October, Roorda got a visit from police and bylaw officers asking him to remove his art from utility poles in the Mary Allen area because a neighbour had reported they looked threatening. He was also informed he had broken a bylaw by failing to get the city’s permission to display the curio boxes on public property. At the time there were six boxes.
Roorda never imagined anyone would see the art pieces as a threat as it wasn’t the first time he had displayed them. He put up boxes in another uptown neighbourhood in June last year without any complaint and without permission from the city.
In fact, he said his work got a positive reception on social media and from people who approached him as he was in the process of installing and removing the pieces.
Since the October ordeal, Roorda has been working with the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener to get approvals to display his art project this spring and fall. He also applied for and received a $3,000 art grant from the Region of Waterloo for the project and subsequently spent the winter making 10 more of the pieces.
While Roorda says the cities have been “more than supportive” in assisting him with getting his art back on the streets, the process has been a little onerous.
“As a professional artist I can go through this process, I can make a formal application form that is very professional looking, and I’ve got the background and resources to do that,” said Roorda.
“But if there’s people in the community that are not professional artists, that have a really cool, creative idea, my concern is that the whole process might be discouraging for what might otherwise be an excellent project.”
The process included completing paperwork, getting permission from utility companies for each individual utility pole he wanted to hang art on, and agreeing to put identifying information on his pieces.
“His submission was reviewed and approved by the public art committee,” Astero Kalogeropoulos, Waterloo’s manager of arts and culture, said in an email.
“Permission and partnerships were secured to have the pieces put up in the poles from North Waterloo Hydro, and City of Waterloo bylaw and information about the project was sent out by the City of Waterloo through communications and neighbourhood groups.”
Despite the process, Roorda is happy that his art will be out for the public to interact with.
“I want to bring interesting discoveries for a neighbourhood,” he said.
Paul Roorda beside one of his “Time Stops” artworks mounted on a utility pole at Herbert Street and John Street East in Waterloo.