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Broken City Lab Asks Locals Why “Windsor Is Forever”

Friday March 8th, 2013, 11:00am


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Half of my shirt is off as I lie on top of a table in a small space filled with many people. A guy is coming at me with a needle.  I’m anxious.The small room is Civic Space, located at 411 Pelissier in downtown Windsor. The guy is tattoo artist Dave Kant, from Advanced Tattoo, and the needle is a tattoo gun. All of the people are there to take part in the Windsor is Forever project.

Civic Space is the home of Broken City Lab, which is a collection of artists who host workshops, events, and installations with the hope of  creating civic change by causing people to think. They are currently working under a two-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which allows them to bring in various artists and other people of interest to work with the community. Portland-based artist Jason Sturgill is one of these.

A few years back he held an event in his home town entitled Art Is Forever. He has now brought this project to Canada by teaming up with BCL. Earlier in the week he had Windsorites show him their favourite places in town.

“The cultural diversity in Windsor is really great,” he says, “I also like all of the neighbourhoods. I like how you have all the different districts like little Italy, Ottawa, Ford City and such. It was fun to see Sandwich town, and visiting Holland Antiques was really great. We spent some time there and it was a nice shop. I’m also a big book fan, so I went to Biblioasis and Juniper Books.”

These adventures lead Sturgill and other local artists to devise a flash set of tattoos symbolic to Windsor, including a mini-van, roses, a squirrel, and a salt shaker.

“It’s more about civic pride and thinking about the place where you live and what it means,” says Sturgill.Patriotic citizens were then invited to share their stories of why they believe Windsor is forever. BCL chose their favourites, and offered about 30 people the privilege of a free Windsor-themed tattoo.

“A tattoo is a pretty serious commitment,” says Justin Langlois, research director at BCL, “but we had way more submissions than we had spots.”

Grant Yocom was one of the lucky few. In the mid 90’s he worked at the Canada Trading Post on Huron Line, and one day had an interesting encounter with Aretha Franklin. He used this story as a basis for why he loves Windsor and all of the things that happen here, which landed him a new tattoo. His choice was an olde English “W” on the outside of his right leg.

My choice was a June bug, (Or may fly. Or fish fly. Whatever term you prefer) on my shoulder, which was done by Kant.

With the assistance of Kant, BCL members sterilized the Civic Space to transform it into a fully-functioning tattoo studio for one day only. Kant was joined by Jon Jimenez and Steve Jones of Flying Dagger Studio to spend the day chain-inking loyal Windsorites.

“Dave Kant, he basically just heard about our project through one of the members at the arts council,” says Langlois, “And he kind of got on board, and then he got Jon and Steve to help out too.”

The atmosphere was jovial as people who were before strangers started to bond over their love of tattoos and of their city. It also gave people the chance to watch each other’s tattooing progress, due to the fact that the waiting room and studio were one and the same.

For some, this tattoo is an addition to a collection, and for others, like Rachel Gaddy, it is a beginning.

“I’m biracial, bilingual, dual citizen, and I live in a border town,” she said, explaining why she was drawn to this project, “It’s kind of my thing.”

And for the people who were unable to receive their tattoos today, there is still hope.

“What we’re gonna do is have these tattoo flash sheets up in other tattoo studios, so you can still go get it,” says Langlois.

Story and Photos by Lauren Hedges and Komal Kundhal

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