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Animate the Space old Bank of Commerce


THUNDER BAY, ON ---  February 12, 2012  ---   The old Bank of Commerce, 409 Victoria Ave. East, was destroyed by fire in Animate the Space old Bank of Commerce2007, and since provides a vacant lot which many enjoy for its raw beauty. The lot currently acts as a throughway for pedestrians, and as a quiet sitting space. With the generous support of the landowner, Mr. Habib, the lot was transformed into a temporary art space in the summer of 2010. Carol Kajorinne participated in the art project and having seen the site's immense potential, has been spearheading the creation of a sculpture garden and greenspace that will endure time. The intention is not only to create unique, inspirational artwork for the space, but to encourage community involvement in the reclamation of the site, and to promote happiness and new growth in the area.

In 2010, Lakehead University partnered with the City of Thunder Bay, running Art Installation in Public Spaces, which required the students to create site specific art for the Bank. The installation was embraced whole-heartedly, and was a breath of fresh air for the community, its positive effects long-lasting. Garbage cans were placed on site, and it was kept clean and free of drug paraphernalia. The patrol officers working in the area even stated that crime rates were reduced because of the installation. Unfortunately, the project was short term, and since the installation was taken down, the site has reverted back to its original lonely state, collecting garbage and paraphernalia. The locals experienced a sense of loss once the artwork was gone, but hopefully 2013 will bring new life into the space once again.

Participating in the project thus far are non-profit organizations: Willow Springs Creative Centre (WSCC, and the Community Arts and Heritage in Education Project (CAHEP). Carol has been working with the organizations, writing grants to gain financial support for the project. A group of artists and interested community partners met in January to brainstorm the art spaces and unique places of the Ogden/Simpson neighbourhood.  A number of ideas came forward and CAHEP is now developing proposals to create projects that engage the community and explore this unique neighbourhood.  The bank space on Victoria Ave. is only one of a number of unique spaces and great places to create in.  Together the organizations have also been planning low-cost community events for the Bank space. On Friday Feb. 15th, for instance, from 4-7 pm you can participate in some wintertime fun as we "Animate the Space". Snow and ice will naturally be the medium, but don't worry because hot chocolate will be on hand! Come out and create a snow sculpture or wind chimes to take home, with supplies donated by WSCC, CAHEP, and Satellite Studio. CAHEP is showcasing Arts and Heritage in the Community from February 14th to March 1st, and Animate The Space is one of many Festival Showcase of Arts and Heritage Education Celebrating Family Day and Heritage Week in Thunder Bay. Featured in the festival are opportunities to create your own unique art piece, to enjoy art, and to learn more about local culture. For more information about current CAHEP projects, please visit <> and check out the events or like CAHEP on Facebook. 475-6526

Others involved in the project have been Academy Afrah and Shanthi Om Studio and Boutique, who hosted a "Taste of India" dinner fundraiser in April of 2012. "Taste of India" was a delicious success, organized by Carol Kajorinne, Shanthi Minor, and Jordan Strum and supported by many. Dan Fulton of Urban Greenscapes cleans up the Bank space, taking away the garbage whenever he has an opportunity. Dan also helped coordinate a "Clean Up" date in August of 2012, bringing a group of people and a truck load of mulch with him. Approximately thirteen people showed up that cool, rainy day to help clean and create flower beds, ready for planting in 2013. Or find the link by visiting the Bank Sculpture Garden and Greenspace on Facebook.

Community art provides an opportunity to build a strong, supportive, multicultural community. Want to be involved with future Bank of Commerce projects and contribute to an art space created for the community by the community? The ways you could be involved are endless: your time, connections, and support at fundraising events are all valuable assets. If you wish to donate some of your time and energy towards the project, please contact Carol Kajorinne of Satellite Studio by emailing or visit her at the Thunder Bay Country Market Saturdays from 8am-1pm. Donations towards the project would be greatly appreciated. If you are able to donate money, please make the cheques payable to Willow Springs Creative Centre. We also will require items such as gardening tools, plants, soil, gloves, cement, etc. for the cultivation of the site. If you have supplies you are willing to donate, please contact Carol or WSCC (768-1336/ and we will arrange for pick up! Together, we can lay pathways, grow food, and enjoy the inspirational space we will create! Come out to Animate The Space and let's begin transforming the site!

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