On a beautiful sunny Calgary afternoon, a man from Colombia sat down to type his wife a love letter in Spanish and English. Much to the giggling amusement of both.
Sometime later, a group of teenage boys used that same typewriter to experiment, and giggle, with a different form of the English language.
What made these experiences unusual is that the typewriter sits in a micro-park located along the busy 9 Avenue in Inglewood. The typewriter is part of a placemaking activation called Analog is Dialog that aims to slow visitors down, and to enjoy the heritage community on a deeper level.
“So many people just sat down and typed away, and it just gave people a bit of a kick in their day,” said Inglewood BIA Executive Director Rebecca O’Brien.
O’Brien, along with a number of other women from the community including artists Olivia O’Brien and Kallie Stewart, and Art of Vintage owner Heather Oliphant, created the activation project.
The micro-park had a soft opening July 17, and a more formal official kickoff July 20. The typewriter will be available for use next to the Inglewood BIA office at 1417 9 Avenue SW on most days when the weather is good.
Extending living and community space
A former patch of weeded dirt next to the BIA office was transformed with flagstones, a pair of art pieces, a table and chairs, and of course the typewriter.
“Our main streets are an extension of our living spaces. People have small apartments, they want to get out, they want to connect to other people, and you have to create space to do that,” said O’Brien.
“Before when it was just a patch of weeds, no one was going near it. With Inglewood, we’re constantly looking at our street—asphalt, sidewalks, you name it—and saying, ‘well, how do we make that a place where people don’t want to pass through but want to stay and linger,'” she said.
Artist Kallie Stewart said that she was very excited to be asked to participate in a project that allowed her to express her love for Inglewood.
“I couldn’t believe that I was asked to make something for something that’s so important like face-to-face connections,” she said.
“It’s just nice to highlight that there’s different ways to connect, whether it be with old technology or new technology.”
Funding from an ActivateYYC grant
The project was funded in part by a Federation of Calgary Communities’ ActivateYYC Walk, Play and Be Nehibhourly Grant for $1,000. The organization also offers $3,000 Bump-Outs & Pathways Grants for larger activations. Applications for both grant levels are open to BIAs, community groups, non-profits, and local businesses.
Hayley Dechaine, ActivateYYC coordinator, said that activations like Analog is Dialog are important to re-building community post-Covid.
“Space like this in a community like Inglewood that is so lively and has people on the streets all the time, really brings an opportunity for people to connect and in a way that we haven’t for years,” she said.
Dechaine said that it’s entirely possible to create spaces that people will want to use for relatively small dollar amounts, compared to the multi-tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands for large-scale projects.
“People don’t realize that you can do so much with a little amount, and this is a great example of that,” she said.
“It it’s a small space, but it really adds to the community.”
The Federation of Calgary Communities has provided grant funding to a variety of similar activation projects, including the seating and design project for the micro-park space in Mission.