Call for Expressions of Interest: Main Street Unionville Public Art Opportunities

Conceptual view of the proposed Main Street Unionville Revitalization. Image by Daniel Bishay.

Main Street Unionville Public Art Opportunities Open Call

Submission Deadline: October 10, 2023 at 5PM

The City of Markham invites professional artists to submit expressions of interest for either of two embedded public art opportunities as part of the Main Street Unionville Public Art Program. These opportunities form an integral component of the Main Street Unionville revitalization project, set to conclude in 2025.

The winning proposals for the two opportunities will be chosen through distinct, open, two-stage competitions. NOTE: Each artist or artist team may only submit an expression of interest for ONE of the two opportunities available. After receiving expressions of interest for each project, a short list of five artists or artist teams will be selected to proceed to stage two, by a specially convened panel composed of arts professionals and project stakeholders. The shortlisted artists or artist teams then receive a stipend to develop their proposals. The artists or artist teams that are awarded the final commissions will receive a design fee that encompasses all expenses related to the artwork including fees for design, contract administration, professional services, travel, and other incidental costs. The responsibility for fabrication and installation lies with the project construction team.

Artists are NOT asked to make a proposal at this time.

Main Street Unionville Revitalization

The multi-year development of Unionville’s Historic Main Street revitalization is guided by the Main Street Unionville Community Vision Plan (2015). This plan outlines land use, character development, and targeted improvements for specific areas between Highway 7 and Toogood Pond Park. The City of Markham initiated the Main Street Unionville Streetscape Master Plan for Commercial Core in 2018, engaging in background analysis, concept development, and community input gathering.

In March 2022, Council approved the streetscape plan, encompassing new sidewalks, road surfaces, infrastructure improvements, and lighting systems. The integration of consistent streetscape elements, site furniture, plantings, and public art aims to create accessible “Street Rooms” while preserving the district’s heritage character. The Streetscape Master Plan underscores the focus on integrating new public art, aligning with the goal of maintaining the area’s integrity and enhancing its public spaces.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples and their commitment to stewardship of the land. We acknowledge the communities in circle. The North, West, South and Eastern directions, and Haudenosaunee, Huron Wendat, Anishnabeg, Seneca, Chippewa, and the current treaty holders Mississaugas of the Credit peoples. We share the responsibility with the caretakers of this land to ensure the dish is never empty and to restore relationships that are based on peace, friendship, and trust. We are committed to reconciliation, partnership, and enhanced understanding.

We are all Treaty people. Many of us have come here as settlers, immigrants, and newcomers in this generation or generations past. We’d like to also acknowledge and honour those who came here involuntarily, particularly those who are descended from those brought here through enslavement.

Main Street Unionville Public Art Program

In the fall of 2019, Markham City Council approved its Public Art Master Plan 2020-2024, and a related Implementation Plan in Winter, 2020. The objectives of the City’s Public Art Program are to inspire people to live, work, visit and invest in Markham; to celebrate the city’s diverse cultures and heritage from multiple points of view; and to connect residents to Markham’s built and natural environment.

Main Street Unionville rests on the western bank of a valley carved by a Rouge River tributary across millennia. Positioned between two historic mill sites that relied on the creek’s power for industry, the Rouge and its branches carry a multi-layered historical significance, bridging eras from before Unionville’s establishment to the present day.

The public art program conceived for Main Street Unionville invites artists to delve into the theme of “Wayfinding.” This entails spatially linking the heritage district and commercial zone to a broader geographic context anchored in the Rouge’s presence. Temporally, it extends the narrative of the historic neighborhood, embedding it within a deeper historical backdrop. Public art bridges contemporary elements with Unionville’s heritage, fostering meaningful dialogues between old and new. It also offers spaces to reflect on non-dominant histories, Indigenous connections, immigration to the area, and shifting industries. This curatorial vision of the program provides a contemporary lens through which the area’s past can be retraced.

The Main Street Unionville Public Art Program consists of three key elements: two embedded public art opportunities outlined below, and the commencement of an Indigenous garden starting in 2024. Together, they will form a network of pathways that interlace Main Street Unionville into a broader cultural context, encompassing a renewed awareness of past, present, and future.

Aerial view of site, showing Opportunity 1, along Main Street Unionville, and Opportunity 2, connecting Main Street Unionville to the Rouge Trail.

Embedded Public Art Opportunities

Opportunity One: Main Street Pathway
Design Fee: $40,000.00 (+HST)

Two-dimensional art works will be integrated into a series of 15 steel tree grates, as well as metal fencing along the east edge of a small plaza.

As a series, these pieces can function as wayfinding elements, make reference to features beyond main street, and to adjacent sites of cultural significance. Artworks could create a narrative that unfolds as pedestrians progress along the street, serving as storyboards to remap the past, present, and future of Unionville.

Opportunity Two: Rouge Connection Pathway
Design Fee: $15,000.00 (+HST)

Making a connection, both visual and conceptual, between Main Street Unionville and the Rouge Trail is the objective for an artwork at this site, which will consist of a full-colour image or pattern applied to the asphalt. The pathway artwork will bring awareness to the proximity of the creek ecosystem and history, as well as pointing the way to the trail entrance.

Project Timeline

Work will be coordinated with the construction schedule. Installation is projected to take place in late 2024 or early 2025, but construction timelines may change and deliverable deadlines may be affected. The selected artist will be expected to have flexibility with their installation timeline.

Stage 1
Request for Expression of Interest – September 6 to October 10, 2023
Artist Information Sessions – Week of September 25, 2023
Selection Panel Meeting 1 – Week of October 23, 2023
Artists Notified – By October 30, 2023

Stage 2
Request for Concept Proposals – October 30, 2023 to January 8, 2024
Technical Review – Week of January 8, 2024
Public Open Houses – Week of January 15, 2024
Selection Panel Meeting 2 – Early February, 2024
Artists Notified – Mid-February, 2024

Artist agreement signed – March 2024
Projected Installation – Winter 2024 to Spring 2025

Submission Requirements

All competition details, including submission requirements and instructions are HERE.

Competition Contact

Yan Wu, Public Art Curator
City of Markham

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