“And where are YOU folks from?“ was the cheerful greeting from the woman at the visitor information desk. You could tell she was excited and we were about to learn why. Attendance records were being broken as people from around the Province were flocking to the exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. It was featuring the works of one of Saskatchewan’s most celebrated painters, Wilf Perreault, who is best known for a single subject – the everyday back alley.
It goes without saying that Wilf’s work is both unique and exquisite. His use of brilliant seasonal colors, daytime and nighttime scenes, and familiar locations all contribute to his popular appeal. But there is also a special significance to his subject matter. It reflects the transition in urban planning since the 1960’s away from the old style street-avenue grids to bays and crescents where back alleys have been replaced by easements.
A small slightly obscure wall plaque labeled “Transitions” appears next to one of the artist’s paintings. It describes how the artist’s work reminds us of the loss of an understated sense of community that alleys help to sustain. They provide space for chance encounters with neighbours and unorganized communal play among children. What’s more they reflect an era when cars and driveways were not the defining elements of civic life.
The sense of community that alleys helped to sustain in the past can be rediscovered through the intentional design and community attributes of cohousing and of Prairie Spruce Commons in particular. Our underground parking puts cars out of sight and out of mind and replaces pavement with green space, gardening areas, and children’s play areas. We even have an arts and crafts room for any “budding” artists in residence.