The Dude Chilling Art Exchange: One Month Later

Dude Chilling Art Exchange - Photo by Chris Kovacs

It’s been one month since I launched the Dude Chilling Art Exchange at Brewery Creek Community Gardens in Guelph Park and the community engagement has been overwhelmingly positive. For me, the best moments have been talking with strangers around the art exchange and opening up the booth to discover what new art people have left for others to take.

I’d estimate that in the 32 days since the launch, the art exchange has received and gifted a few hundred pieces of art. And what a range of art there has been, so far. Paintings, drawing, poems, chap books, comic books, mixtapes, flash fiction, sculptures, paper art, pottery, hand-made clocks, stained glass, and so much more. What thrills me the most is the majority of the art that passes through the art exchange are all one-of-a-kind pieces brought to the exchange by people in the neighbourhood. Knowing that local creatives are using the art exchange as a showcase for their work makes me feel good.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “The secret to life is art.”

The Doll Melanie Wanted

Talking with the people I meet at the art exchange is bringing me a lot of joy. For some of them, it’s their first time experiencing the art exchange, and for others, they’ve become regulars. They share their stories with me of watching other people interact with the booth and they tell me about the treasures they’ve discovered inside. I’ve spoken with more people in my neighbourhood in one month than I have in the six months I’ve lived in Mount Pleasant.

I joke with my friends that I birthed a wild art baby and left her in the woods to fend for herself and the best part is she’s doing great. There are so many more stories I don’t know about—so many more unknown experiences people have had with her—but knowing that she’s bringing joy into the lives of strangers and neighbours alike makes me feel pretty damn awesome.

Awesome Clock and a Bus Ticket

I didn’t expect the media attention the art exchange has received, but it makes me happy because all the coverage has helped the story about the project go global. I’d quietly dreamed that more neighbourhoods would install art exchanges, and now it seems that “more neighbourhoods” could, quite possibly, become a global thing. How cool is that?

When the idea first came to me in February, I was ready to run out and build the exchange with my own money and set her down in a roundabout somewhere, legal or not. I’m glad I waited because it gave me the opportunity to connect with the wonderful people at the Brewery Creek Community Gardens. Their enthusiasm and support helped push me forward and the location is perfect in so many ways. The art exchange wouldn’t be what it is today, just one month later, without the garden crew’s support. The backdrop of their lush gardens sets the tone that beauty and art live here.

Art and a Guest Book

As with anything one leaves in public, you take a risk that someone will come along and deface your hard work. The art exchange is no stranger to this. I knew, going into this project, that there might come a day when someone would deface the booth and, so far, this has happened a few times. It’s a learning curve and instead of getting upset about it, a friend of mine had the idea to bring a guest book to the art exchange. This has helped immensely and provided a new medium for those who might write upon the booth to instead write in the guest book. Graffiti will still happen, though what I put out to those who would take a pen to my wild art baby is this: channel that creativity into a piece to contribute to the art exchange instead. The Dude Chilling Art Exchange and the people who patronize her will love your art.

Colin Upton is Happy

I want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who’s made the success of the Dude Chilling Art Exchange possible. Without your support and creativity, my wild art baby would sit empty, and what a sad thing that would be because we can all use more art in our lives.

xo Cheryl Cheeks