A metal plate with the initials ‘FH’ on them. A drain. Leftover paint on a brick wall.
All examples of regular ‘city things’ you probably walk past on your morning commute. Chances are, you’ve certainly never stopped to study them, let alone regard them as examples of contemporary art.
Claire Granata’s ‘People Lab’ project is here to change that.
Since 2018, Claire and fellow artist Pablo Latona have worked on a “public art experiment” with grant funding from the City Renewal Authority (CRA). It started simply enough with a greyhound-patting experience in an empty shop front in Civic’s Sydney Building.
“We tested all these things that were really basic but could hype people up and make them appreciate everyday things,” she says.
“The whole idea was to get people really engaging with their city and community.”
It now takes the form of the ‘Festival of Everyday Art’.
The festival starts each month with a workshop, where members of the public spend up to two hours scouting the city and photographing literally anything that catches the eye. Think of it like a photo scavenger hunt.
“You’re finding things that are exciting, bizarre, unnoticed or funny,” Claire says.
“You’re curating the art, essentially.”
It’s then up to Claire’s team to come up with printed labels for each of the photos ahead of the next part on 15 July – the ‘Treasure Hunt’.
“We set up a marquee near the Street Theatre, off Childers Street, and people drop in anytime between 11 am and 3 pm, and we give them a map of the city and a bunch of labels. Their job is to go out and find where those labels belong and stick them in place.”
The result is a “huge outdoor public art gallery” involving more than 100 little white labels tacked onto an eclectic mix of objects. And some laughs.
“Sometimes people really enjoy it but don’t actually get the memo, and they’ll go and stick the label somewhere completely wrong, which can be quite funny.”
The team with the best photos “of a label in place” receive a particularly nice leaf in return.
“At the end of the day, when people have photographed their labels in place and come back, they get to choose from a suitcase full of leaves.”
The stakes are higher the following day for the ‘Treasure Trail’ when vouchers to local businesses (including Good Games) are up for grabs.
“Again, we set up our marquee over at the ANU, and it’s people’s job to find as many labels as they can and photograph them.”
It might sound simple enough, but Claire says it’s striking a chord with locals and tourists alike.
“We got an email after the last event series in June from a lady who is in Canberra but has lived in Melbourne for 12 years, saying how much she enjoyed seeing Canberra in a different light.
“We also had a 15-year-old girl who had travelled in with her family from Bungendore specifically for the Treasure Hunt to celebrate her birthday.”
Several national institutions here in Canberra have also shown interest in the festival, and Claire and Pablo are preparing to head to Sydney soon to introduce it to the Inner West Council. News is even spreading overseas.
“We might take it to Canada in a couple of years’ time,” Claire says.
“We’ve got a local creative who joined our team and is moving over there, so we’ll try to get some funding and take it overseas.”
As for whether Canberra will continue to host the public art gallery in the future, Claire’s response is unequivocal.
Visit People Lab on Facebook for more information.
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.