After posting on the 2019 Jane’s Walk and Vision Niagara’s tour of the Peace Walk Discovery Trail, I made it a point to pay a visit to the eight unique artistic benches that now line the newly improved Buffalo Shoreline Trail. The benches were designed by artist Cornelia Dohse-Peck, who collaborated on the project with her husband Will Peck. The art installation can be found on The Trail, between Broderick Park and Unity Island Park. It’s easy to access The Trail at the foot of West Ferry, where the Buffalo Shoreline Trail begins (at Broderick Park). It’s also an enjoyable bike ride along the river to Unity Island.
The mosaic art project is not only welcome due to its colorful artistic nature, it’s also nice to see eight new resting/relaxing locations along The Trail. Each bench reflects the local history and folklore associated with this stretch of waterfront, including Native American and Underground Railroad influences and tributes.
After I posted the initial information about the Jane’s Walk tour of The Trail, I received an email from Alice Bowden, Director/Co-founder of Bowden & Brazil Ltd. (a small publishing start-up). Bowden told me about a new book that had been published on Jacobs by saying, “[Who the Hell is Jane Jacobs?] takes the reader through her life, her influences (and those she influenced) as well as her key ideas on urbanism. It’s a great read and would be a really good introduction to those interested in saving our cities from planners and developers who refuse to look beyond profits to the importance of a neighbourhood and what it brings to a community.”
In response, I asked Bowden what Deborah Talbot (the author) would think about The Walks, and The Trail, as they relate to the ideologies developed by Jacobs over her lifetime.
“The international movement of Jane’s Walks is all about reconnecting people to the history and nature of the place in which they live,” responded Talbot. “Urbanism should be a practice available to all. Who the Hell is Jane Jacobs? aims to make the collected writings of Jane Jacobs and the practices of contemporary urbanism accessible to new audiences. Looking at Jane’s life and her ideas about the importance of density, diversity and democracy to city life, the book weaves in contemporary discussions about immigration, culture, economics, disenfranchisement and gentrification. The Peace Walk Discovery Trail looks at the complex role of public art in cities – an essential discussion and one Jacobs would have been keen to endorse.”
According to Bowden, “Who the Hell is Jane Jacobs? is one of the first books that we have published in the Who the Hell is..? series.” The 2019 Jane’s Walk corresponded perfectly with the launch of the book, which prompted the publisher to reach out to Walk organizers all over the world. “I think they are such a great idea and I think that reading about Jacobs in our easy-to-read format would help people appreciate just what the walks are all about.”
I am also happy to say that Bowden’s email prompted me to scout out The Peace Walk Discovery Trail for myself. The interactive art installation is a great addition to the waterfront, and adds a needed artistic element to a trail that could use some love. Unfortunately, one of the benches has already been tagged with spray paint. I issued a call to action on the City’s 311 phone app, so let’s see what happens. Hopefully these benches can be protected, and they aren’t subjected to further vandalism.