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Lighten UP

Lighten UP


Kathy Renwald

   There’s an artist walking around downtown Hamilton in a duck suit. His stage name is Lewis Mallard, and he’s supplementing his income by selling his hand made Covid suppressing masks.

  Mr. Mallard has his own Instagram account. Every time I see him, he makes me laugh.

  We need laughs right now. Thankfully they show up organically.

  In the former MacDonald Marina, the city is tinkering with plans to make this a parklike greenway between Bayfront Park and Pier 4 Park. In the meantime it’s a rather ungainly strip of land,    but notable for the fine view of the harbour.

  While plans are drafted the city has parked a whole bunch of what people are calling coffins, along the water’s edge. The city used the idea of these “coffins” on James Street South, but merchants hated them because they made the pedestrian flow awkward.

  They sit empty at the waters edge, remarkably free of graffiti, and people are finding their own uses for them.  Kids love to jump from one to the other, and athletes do standing jumps to the top edge of the coffins.

Curious coffins line the harbour edge
Kathy Renwald photo

  Another popular feature in the former marina, is a big pile of crushed gravel. Every little kid walking by will drag the parents over to the mini mountain and play King of the Hill. It’s like buying a kid an expensive toy, and seeing that the pots and pans in the kitchen are the preferred plaything.

   I like it when kids and adults are inventive. We need more elements of surprise and whimsy in our public spaces.

  Harbourfront Centre in Toronto used to have a display of fanciful artist’s gardens every year. The best, used old cars as gigantic planters. I saw the same idea  at a museum near Venice Beach California,  where an old Benz was stuffed with succulents.

An artist garden near Venice Beach California
Kathy Renwald photo

   These types of public art interventions are more than just humourous, they make us think about what we throw out, and how we regard the natural world. And like the many murals we now see on buildings in Hamilton, they reach a big part of the population that might never go to a gallery.

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  Simplicity makes a statement too. I like the big recliners at the harbour’s edge near Williams Fresh Cafe. People sit and read, watch birds and contemplate boats going out for a sail. 

Sit and bird watch by the bay
Kathy Renwald photo

  Encountering these pleasing vignettes busts up the tedium of physical distancing and brooding about the pandemic.

   On Friday, the Royal Botanical Gardens will open their outdoor gardens to the public, that’s good news. It means enjoying roses at Hendrie Park, iris at the Laking Garden and lilacs at the Arboretum. 

  June is one of the loveliest times in the garden. It’s a time of colour and fragrance, and natural beauty.  

  Gardens soothe the spirit, and Mr. Mallard lightens our mood. Enjoy these gifts for all they are worth.

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