Markham Public Art Presents Becoming Public Art: Site-Specificity and Public Art


Markham Public Art presents Becoming Public Art: Site-Specificity and Public Art

Please join us on Tuesday, November 24, from 1:30 – 3 PM EST for Site-Specificity and Public Art, the seventh session of Becoming Public Art, a nine-week virtual summit presented by Markham Public Art in partnership with ART+PUBLIC UnLtd. Featuring three presentations and a group discussion, this session asks the questions: What does site-specificity mean if we think about “site” as an ever-changing condition? Urban sites are in flux, with changing geographies and demographics, how can this be addressed in public art practice? How to cultivate conversations about the site’s past, present, and future?

Maggie Groat, artist
Paul Wong, artist
Randy Niessen, Public Art Program, City of Calgary

Annie Wong, artist

The event is free, online, and open to the public. Registration is required, click here.


Through strategic mobilization of collage methodologies and alternative forms of research, Maggie Groat is interested in the formulation of site-responsive works that call attention to deep time, shifting territory, locational identities and possible futures. Focusing on a selection of recent projects, including a look at The Lake, (Art Metropole, Toronto, 2014), Deep Time, Portals, Particles and Pulls, (Armoury Street, Toronto, 2019), and STSTS (Western Front, Vancouver, 2017-2020), Groat will discuss approaches and considerations around what it means for her to engage site-specifically, and what she has learned from her engagements with place and time.

Paul Wong’s presentation will focus on a recent series of multidisciplinary public art projects in Vancouver’s Chinatown. They will include 身在唐人街 / OCCUPYING CHINATOWN that featured engagements created during a year-long artist residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and Wong’s Chinatown studio, from March 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. is now an annual festival celebrating pan-Asian LGBTQ2 art and culture of which Wong is the Artistic Director. He currently has in development the Sounds of Chinatown, a sound installation, and the Occupying Chinatown book, which will be released in 2021. This illustrated talk will be live from Wong’s studio in the heart of Chinatown.

Randy Niessen’s talk focuses on Calgary’s Chinatown, which is currently at a crossroads. The neighborhood is facing increasing pressure from developers wanting to access the area’s valuable location while its community is advocating to preserve its distinct and important cultural identity. This tension has been a catalyst for community stakeholders and The City of Calgary to work together on significant planning documents that will aim to shape the future of the area. Through this, the Calgary Chinatown Artist Residency was created, an opportunity that embeds artists into the community to research the rich history, culture and built environment of Calgary Chinatown and its current sociopolitical context. Niessen will shed light on the process of this residency—how it not only allows the artists to create new works in response to Calgary Chinatown, but also to influence the civic planning documents underway.


Maggie Groat utilizes a range of media to interrogate methodologies of collage and salvage practices. Informed by her Skarú:ręʔ and Settler backgrounds, her role as a mother, and the impacts of the Anthropocene, her current research surrounds site-responsiveness, shifting territories, decolonial ways-of-being, Indigenous Futurisms, gardens, slowness, margins, and the transformative potentials of found and ritual materials. She is a Visual Studies Lecturer at the University of Toronto and lives on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Chonnonton, and Anishinaabeg.

Paul Wong is a media-maestro making art for site-specific spaces and screens of all sizes. With a career spanning four decades, he is an award-winning artist and curator who is known for pioneering early visual and media art in Canada, founding several artist-run groups, (VIVO Media Art Centre, On Main/On The Cutting Edge Production Society, leading public arts policy, and organizing events, festivals, conferences and public interventions since the 1970s.

Randy Niessen holds a BFA from Alberta University of the Arts and is currently pursuing a dual MA in Arts Management with an MFA degree from Claremont Graduate University. He has experience working with artist-run centres, festivals and municipal art programs, and currently works at The City of Calgary as a Public Art Coordinator. Randy has been involved in many acclaimed public art initiatives including WATERSHED+ and the Calgary Chinatown Artist Residency.

Annie Wong is a writer and multidisciplinary artist working in performance and installation. Conceptually diverse, her practice explores the intersections between the political and poetic in everyday life. Wong has presented across North America and has held residencies with the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Power Plant, and the Varley Art Gallery of Markham. Her recent literary works in poetry, art writing, and non-fiction can be found in The Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art; C Magazine; Canadian Art; and MICE Magazine.

Image 1: Paul Wong, Saltwater City Vancouver, neon, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.
Image 2: Maggie Groat, Deep Time, Portals, Particles + Pulls, Armoury Street, Toronto, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Image 3: The Calgary Chinatown Artist Residency artists, Annie Wong, Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong and Teresa Tam, at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre. Photo by Randy Niessen.

Becoming Public Art: Working Models and Case Studies for Art in Public is a nine-week virtual summit presented by the City of Markham in partnership with ART+PUBLIC UnLtd. In a series of virtual sessions co-curated by Rebecca Carbin, Principal, ART+PUBLIC UnLtd, and Yan Wu, Public Art Curator, City of Markham, professionals in the field will present the broad range of perspectives that shape public art making today.

For summit details and to subscribe for updates, please visit the summit website.

General inquiries:
Media inquiries: Yan Wu, Markham Public Art Curator