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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stopping Creativity



I'm still a bit mad about this so if I sound angry, just know I am. Yesterday my neighbours complained about my daughter's chalk drawings on the ground. The agent from our condo's property management company said she'd had a number of calls about it. That was Monday morning. The chalking happened on the weekend. You mean to tell me no one would come and talk to me about it? And with everything happening in the world, I live around people who have nothing better to do than complain about art on the sidewalk? Who actually picked up the phone to call and complain about chalk on the sidewalk?

They told me to clean it off. I told them to "fine me." I said, "get the board to fine me. I'm on the board, so let's have a meeting about it and fine me." "It looks like shit," they said. "Children live here," I replied. "We have drug dealers and hookers on the street and you guys are complaining about a child's drawing that will wash away when it rains?" "We don't know when it's going to rain. It's defacing the property."

Don't even get me started. Then my neighbour wondered why I was so defensive about it.

If you want to squash people, give them a hard time about an expression they did that made them feel so joyous and self-expressed and hurt no one. Shut them down that way and you will. Fortunately, Remi took pictures of it, as she knew at the time that what she'd done was big and beautiful.

I want her to feel safe in a neighbourhood that is not known for its safety. I want her to feel safe to be on the street even though she's fighting for space with dealers and users and rowdy partiers. Let her light up the street and show that there's life here besides the litter and vomit that normally line our little yard.

I angrily poured snow on it and water, washing off the traces that a child lives here. A child who feels safe and strong. I told her next time do it straight on the sidewalk and the neighbours will just have to deal. I'd love to see a city bylaw officer come to my door to tell me hopscotch isn't allowed in Lowertown.

48 comments:

Stefania said...

That is just crazy. Absolutely crazy! Fight this one!

bellasnowboots said...

Very sad indeed. Not unlike the 'property value and obstructive views' scene from the documentary 'The Age of Stupid' - I could not have named these times better myself...good grief.

bushidoka said...

Wow, unbelievable

Jodie said...

Good for you for standing up for Remi and for your neighbourhood. It's unbelievable that some people feel so hardened about the world that need to make a self-expressed child feel belittled and wrong. Her art IS beautiful!! Remi is welcome to come and paint my entire driveway!!! :)

Jamine said...

Thanks for the support! One of my Facebook friends shared this link with me in response: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2007/05/14/doucet-street-motion-070514.html

I'll have to remind the Board of this...

Lenore said...

Hi! My blog is "Free-Range Kids" and I'd love to run this on there, with a link back to your site. Where do you live? Contact me at Lskenazy at yahoo dot com. Thanks!! -- Lenore

April said...

It's almost as bad as the 'no street hockey' bylaw.
It's really sad to think that people have nothing else to occupy their narrow minds.

roberta said...

Some people suck. Not all do, but some. I live in a condo and have had similar "discussions" regarding my 2 nephews.

Not sure if you're aware, but you made the ottawastart blog "rant of the day"

http://ottawastart.blogspot.com/2010/03/rant-of-day-lowertown-neighbours.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FsBHK+(OttawaStart+Blog)

Stephane B said...

Jamine, use your super powers and hit them where they least expect it! Use that transformation trick you do so well and leave your neighbors touched moved and inspired! They will love you for it and so will you!

S.

BabelBabe said...

you have a no street hockey law? My kids would lose their minds. they are out in our alley all the time playing hockey.

I always say that the more good activity there is around (kids on bikes, people porch sitting, etc.) the less bad activity will occur.

I say stick to your guns and make them call a board meeting. who objects to some cheery chalk drawings? Sheesh.

Alexicographer said...

Here from the Free Range Kids blog ... what beautiful drawings your daughter created. How glum that you were required to remove them.

Sabrina said...

Wow - let's just piss on everyone's parade and ask everyone to take down any kind of holiday decoration as well.

Sidebar: I read the Free Range Kids blog everyday, and was excited when today's entry mentioned "a woman from Ottawa". When I saw the name Jamine, I thought, "could that be Jamine the yoga teacher???" And it was!

I used to come to your yoga classes at Rama Lotus (and you're still my favourite yoga teacher of all time!)

Laurel said...

It always brightens my day when I'm out walking and come across sidewalk chalk art, and your daughter's art is especially cheery.

I could see people objecting if the drawings were obscene or incorporated profanity, but this? The creeps who complained need to go jump in a lake.

Stephanie said...

Good grief this makes me sad. Your daughter can come draw on our double-wide driveway in Barrhaven anytime.

Foilwoman said...

This is simply ludicrous. I live in multifamily housing, and occasionally get complaints about noise (when my kids fight, they do so loudly), which I understand, but if anyone ever complained about my five-year-old's sidewalk artistic stylings, I'd start slipping brochures for the crochety-folks home under their doorways. Really. Ask them if they really want to send the message that they hate children and want to discourage children's creativity? Then ask how long they've felt that way. Then ask them if they've considered therapy, or an alternative career as a prison guard, in the U.S. prison system, which is obviously what they are suited for.

Okay, none of those suggestions help, but it made me feel better. Why not contact a couple local kids' art teachers and get their feedback. And city council. And your local neighborhood reporter. That sort of thing.

These people just like to suck the fun out of everything. Funsuckers.

mrsmusics said...

I taught at an elementary school that had a no sidewalk chalk rule - too "messy looking." Of course, this was also a school with a "respectaurant" instead of a cafeteria...

dvicci said...

Here from the Free Range Kids blog.

What a horrific shame. I really look forward to hearing how this goes down at the next board meeting.

How'd your daughter take it?

sammi said...

Hi Jamine,
Print out a copy of this blog and all the comments. Hang it where your sour-puss neighbours can see it. Perhaps seeing themselves in print might stir up some humanity from way,way down in the bottom of their hearts!

Gorgeous artwork Remi! I am always made to feel better when I see children's art.

XUP said...

This is beyond insane. It's people like this that keep Ottawa the backwater town that it is. Any hint of progress or innovation or vision and they squawk and waggle their fingers and re-elect pillocks like Mayor Larry. I'm so very sorry that you have to live among people like that.

Jamine said...

You guys are all really supportive. The post got picked up at http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ and people there are sharing opposing views like it is a bold drawing and people might get chalk on their shoes. That's true and it was a big chalking. It took a while to make - our first nice day in like forever.

So there's no fight - like I said I cleaned it off right away and we'll still chalk in the back. But the power struggle I felt was the thing that was the most awesome. Lording over children/other people as a way to feel good or right...sheesh.

I think we should encourage kids to be outside rather than on the computer or in front of the TV, even if it means there's a visual mess in the communal space until the next rain...but some people don't agree and that's okay too.

Maggie said...

The artwork is beautiful! It's a shame people would rather look at ugly things than something colorful and bright.

maresi said...

There is a well-known homeless man in our city who leaves positive words or sweet drawings on random patches of sidewalk. It's always a pleasure to come upon one, and I've never heard of anyone criticizing it. I'm so sorry your neighbors can't see your daughter's joyous expression in the same light.

christinemm said...

This is crazy but so are many rules that condos have in force. That is why I live in a house. I couldn't deal with owning the building but on land I don't own and having rules set by the board such as what holiday decorations I could hang on my door, what plants I can have in the yard, and where I can park. I feel too restricted that way.

Living with those rules seems to make SOME people turn into police officers wanting others to all follow the rules. They nark on each other, some like to see others getting into trouble, etc.

Sorry you are going through this.

I'm all for creativity and art expression especially non-vulgar art and especially anything a child makes.

Way2fargone said...

Is that the Canadian flag she has drawn? Wouldn't washing it off be a desecration of the national flag? I remember learning to draw our Australian flag from memory in 3rd grade. (That Union Jack was a challenge)

What a mob of w@nkers, in every sense of the word.

Way2fargone said...

This is the story behind the image of the word 'Eternity" which was the finale of the Sydney, Australia, 2000 New Year's firework display. The word also featured in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

Arthur Stace, a WW1 veteran who suffered from gas-poisoning, spent over 30 years anonymously writing the word 'Eternity' in chalk all over the city after he joined a local church and beating alcoholism, homelessness and a life of petty crime.

Luckily, the chalk graffiti wasn't washed away by busybodies.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/01/18/1105810905250.html

http://www.wesleymission.org.au/publications/eternity/eternity.htm

Crys :D said...

i'm glad you had the strength and courage to stand up for your point of view. the drawings were lovely.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Gah. Spoilsports. She drew a FLAG for cryin out loud! Tell the internets love her artwork, at least.

Will said...

I just caught this in the Citizen.

I'm an Ottawa resident myself, and this is insane. I can't seem to formulate a sentence in my head that effectively describes the cognitive dissonance that this story invokes. There's so much wrong with it that I don't know where to start.

Wow... Just, wow...

You have the right of it, absolutely. I'm behind you on this one 100%.

K said...

I think that maybe they were offended by the blatent display of the Canadian flag... Oh, wait - you ARE in Canada?

Then... WTH?

suze said...

I'm just echoing what everyone else said here, but really, those drawings were beautiful and chalk hurts no one.

alexgg said...

OK, just to start off with, I even got a google account because I feel so strongly about this topic. Sidewalk chalk??? For goodness sakes..... we have had 3 years of troubles with a neighbour over this topic. They consider it graffiti but the rest of the neighbourhood considers it child's play, an expression of creativity, and a god send for killing hours and hours during the warmer weather.

Police and By-law have been called and lawyers have been spoken to in our case. It totally boggles my mind that people are that opposed to sidewalk chalk. Were they not once children themselves? I'm of the generation that sidewalk chalk didn't exist so we took rocks and dragged them along the sidewalk to make designs.

MANY studies have shown that sidewalk chalk has numerous benefits to children including self expression as well excellent for gross motor and fine motor development.

Luckily for us, our neighbourhood sidewalks aren't covered by By-law so they can't say 1 word about it. That being said, to keep peace in the neighbourhood we all now have to wash off the sidewalks of any chalk drawing every night. The children now look at it as having a clean slate to work on the next day.

I'm signing out because like I mentioned before, this is an extremely sore topic with me. I can go on and on ranting about this so I'll stand off my soapbox for a bit. Three years of stupidity in my neighbourhood but unlike you, I KNOW who is making the complaints.

Andrew said...

This is absolutely insane.

Stopping children from creating sidewalk chalk drawings, because it looks too "messy"? What's next, preventing kids from playing jump rope, because their giggles will be too loud??

Children playing brightens up our communities. Children's art makes places inviting, because it makes a home feel ALIVE. I'm sick of everyone walking around with a sneer on their face, stuck to their iPods or cell phones, oblivious to everyone else around them. Smile once in a while -- it won't kill you!

Poppy and Mei said...

Just beauuuutiful!
This would certainly light up my day & give my kids & I something very positive to discuss & be inspired by!
What's wrong with people today? XXxx.

Linnea said...

Dear Remi,

I think your art is beautiful. And if you lived near me, I would be honored to have it adorning my sidewalk and driveway.

(I'm here via a Studio Mothers link on facebook. Jamine, so sorry you and your daughter had to experience this. I'm absolutely gobsmacked that it was even an issue.)

Ballygarrett Art Studio said...

Jamine, wow your anger is vivid and rightly so. Breathe...
Your daughter has a brightness within her that cannot be squashed by small minds and every day you teach her that. This experience and the transitory effects of chalk drawings probably have many lessons.
What I am going to take away from your experience is not to hold on to tightly, tell my children I value them and what they do plus enjoy the moment of creating.
The image lives on in the photos; I can see how much your daughter enjoyed making the images. She is a lucky child. Can I suggest you get an enlargement of photo and place it somewhere prominently framed in your home.
You might also like to try gorilla gardening...
Thanks for your outrage.
Regards Roisin

Alex said...

This is more than sad, it's tragic. No, I don't think I'm exaggerating. We seem to have lost all common sense. How unfortunate is a society that cannot distinguish between a child's drawing and vandalism. The very intent of each one is different and to anyone with eyes and a brain, could discern.
I would be furious, however, I've learned not to speak until I think everything through.
Speaking up for yourself is good. You just want to make sure you succeed at ganing the results you want.
Does this sound like I've been in your shoes? Well, since we're trying to create a peaceful society,
let's see if there's an opportunity to "teach" these poor unfortunates, what they're missing by prohibiting the joyous drawings of children.

Bet to you, and please tell your daughter, that she did succeed at sending joy to a fellow artist via the magic of internet.
God bless.

Megan Hoover said...

that is nuts..."defacing" ??? wow, grumpy, crochety neighbors. so sorry you have to deal with that. i thought they were beautiful!

lemon said...

sorry this happened to you. As unlikely as it might seem right now, I hope it leads to some good discussion and community building for your neighbors. Be cool if something really positive came out of this all! ♥

Jamine said...

I appreciate you guys for logging in to leave comments. I am glad I have it set up that way, even though it may be a hassle. The story was picked up in the local paper and their site allows anonymous commenting, which really gives people an opportunity to say stuff that maybe is what they're really feeling but seems to give voice to stuff people wouldn't say if they had their name to it. So I don't even read those...

Yours however, have been heart-warming! Some great ideas about how we can work with the drawings and the neighbours... It also has opened my eyes to the issue, which I hadn't really even known about before! I'm sorry to hear some of your stories involving angry neighbours.

The bigger thing for me is the conversation and the fact that a lot of people want to have this conversation! Thanks for participating and for letting me know you're there.

cath c said...

your child's art is beautiful and obviously needed in the neighborhood.

that is so wrong. if they start trying to squash her spirit now, no wonder there arte such problems in that section of the city.

good for you for hitting the public sidewalks with it. see what they try next. keep it up!

zoom said...

Maybe some of your neighbours are so used to seeing ugliness they can't recognize beauty anymore. Personally I love the joyful quality of her art. You could get her a t-shirt with her artwork on the front (using her photograph) from one of the t-shirt sites!

Gary said...

Tell Remi her pretty pictures made ME smile.

Sheena said...

I saw this article in The Citizen and had to reply to you.

Your daughter's sidewalk art is beautiful and I'm disgusted that anyone would complain about it. It's sidewalk chalk!! Let kids be kids. Let them CREATE and not feel ashamed about it.

More and more everyday I become sad about the attitude of people in this city.

So thank you to Remi for adding some sunshine to this city!

Suzanne said...

Regarding the chalk drawings, I have to agree with your neighbours. A few kids around here also do chalk drawings and it makes the entire area look slummy, crappy. Get your kid a blackboard and spare your neighbours. And what makes you think you have the right to deface public property (city sidewalks)?

purplegrape said...

As someone who lives in the market as well, I want to thank you and your daughter for bringing some much needed positivity to the neighbourhood.

lauralee said...

Please tell your daughter that our family thinks her artwork is beautiful. It's very sad that some people choose to focus on negative and angry feelings rather than just appreciating the temporary pure joy and simple beauty of a child's chalk drawing.

justine said...

I just can't believe that people have nothing better to do...there's a family near our house that regularly chalks poetry on the sidewalk...I wonder what the response to that would be?

Anyway, you can see that lots of people are with you on this. Keep your chin up, as they say. :)

One of Freedom said...

That makes me sad. Add kids to the list of things society is forgetting how to appreciate. Actually I think they've been underappreciated for a long time now, but this just highlights that fact.