It’s odd to think Papergirl started as a protest, for the way it plays out on streets around the world is about celebrating art not raging against an oppressor.
In a world were nothing is free, the idea of someone riding up on a bicycle with a stack of art to give to a perfect stranger, gratis, does nevertheless have the whiff of counterculture.
“The Papergirl in New York City, they really find it hard to give away art,” said Kelowna organizer Sarah Parsons. “Of course, people there are so used to being passed leaflets and everything.”
Here in the Okanagan, resistance to the offering is minimal.
While the odd person is put off by the roll of art volunteers will spontaneously hand out throughout the downtown core in June, by and large, most are excited, surprised and very thankful for the unusual treasure.
“We’re really making someone’s day. People who don’t have access to art are getting four pieces of art for free,” said Parsons. “It’s good exposure for artists because they get to have their work displayed on both of the websites and it hangs in a gallery for a week, which is really nice. And it’s good for the community.”
On average, 30 individual artists have contributed in each of the three years Papergirl Kelowna has peppered offerings about town and there are groups who fill out the inventory as well.
When Parsons staged it in 2011, 400 pieces were donated to give away and the volunteers had to combine the artwork into packages in order to get the job done.
In addition to prominent community artists like Carrie Harper, Angela Bonten, Linda Lovisa, Liz de Montreuil, Karen Close, Fiona Neal, Tara Davis, Jaine Buse, this year she’s also had donations from George Pringle Elementary School. She has also been teaching Papergirl workshops at the new heArt school on Bernard Avenue and Cool Arts will also contribute for the third year in a row.
Photographer John Whittall and Jason Jablonski have each donated again. Both have given over 100 pieces to the effort over the course its run—the inaugural event was in 2010, there was one in 2011, and now 2013.
Whittall photographs birds, beasts, blooms and bugs, while Jablonski tends toward the human side of life.
Papergirl started in Berlin in 2006 to protest making it a criminal offence to post art in public spaces within that city.
Around the world art is now collected, exhibited and then randomly distributed for free, just as a paperboy would roll up a newspaper for delivery.
The deadline for contributions to the Kelowna effort is Monday, May 20th although Parsons will accept late entries for a few more days. The official opening for the show at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art is Friday, May 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. First Nation artist Holly Bob will be creating live at the opening and Papa Thom will perform music.
On either Sunday, June 2 or Monday, June 3 volunteers will randomly distribute the art in Kelowna on bicycles.