Beyond The Bridge

Skills: gentrification, postindustrial architecture, public interventions, spatial justice

‘Beyond the Bridge’: Postindustrial Border Culture, Communities of Care, and Cats in Sandwich Town, Windsor

City: Windsor, Ontario

Project conceived by: Alana Bartol and Shauna Janssen

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‘Beyond the Bridge’ is a project that stems from our shared concern for the built environment, and the rapid gentrification and uneven development of cities. Urban spaces and neighbourhoods are sites of contestation wherein these divergent power relations are played out through communities, buildings, and streets. The outcome is often a significant disconnect between the people who live in and use cities on a daily basis and those who have the power to plan and give them form. Within the context of urban change, our curatorial approach is to create spatial events that utilize diverse modes of collaboration and participatory engagements. Our aim is to bring into representation unrecognized stakeholders and publics and, in so doing, explore and expose the uneven power dynamics working within and across urban communities.  A key question frequently guiding our work as artist-researchers is the potential for socially-engaged art practices, community consultation, and collective placemaking to play a role in the creation of empowering urban places.

As co-curators of ‘Beyond the Bridge,’ we are developing and organizing a series of  community art collaborations, workshops, and public events in Sandwich Town, Windsor. Our key architectural and urban interlocutors in the development of this project are the Ambassador Bridge, which spans half a kilometre over the Detroit River, connecting the border cities of Detroit and Windsor. Sandwich Town is a largely marginalized neighbourhood located at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor. In our preliminary research into Sandwich Town’s history, there appears to be a sense of solidarity amongst different communities and a strong commitment to protecting or repurposing what remains of Sandwich Town’s built heritage, and restoring the neighbourhood from one of blight and vacancy, to a culturally diverse historic civic district and desirable place to live. The current vacancy in Sandwich Town, initially brought on by American business tycoon Matty Moroun and the Ambassador Bridge Company, is a spatial, political, and economic point of intensity in the city of Windsor, and is most visible on Indian Road, a street running parallel to and one small city block west of the Ambassador Bridge.

Our project is to develop a project space in Sandwich Town for hosting community art collaborations, sharing knowledge, and to engage a wide range of stakeholders  – including the neighbourhood’s feral cat colony! – with themes of care, urban vacancy, environmental justice, and the right to the city in relation to the history of Windsor’s industrial landscape and it’s transformation into a postindustrial one. We seek to gather, document, and share different points of view and deepen a collective sense of care for Sandwich Town’s past, present, and future identity within Canada’s post-industrial landscape. Our engagement and collaboration with Sandwich Town communities will be framed through a series of place-based creative exchanges, urban interventions, the creation of photo essays, oral histories, mapping and digital archiving workshops. The outcome of these creative exchanges and workshops will culminate in a media centre containing site-repsonsive art projects and archival documents created by participating artists and community members.

For more details about the project site and context, and updates on the project’s development please visit the urban occupations urbaines blog:  http://www.urbanoccupationsurbaines.org/sandwich-town-windsor/