By Peter Saunders
Translucent large-format graphics were recently applied to the windows of city councillors’ offices at Toronto’s City Hall, facing Nathan Phillips Square. These did not represent a new and unlikely out-of-home (OOH) advertising opportunity, but rather were installed in time for public celebrations on July 10, 2012, that marked the beginning of a three-year countdown to hosting the 2015 Pan American (Pan Am) Games.
The printed graphics, depicting new Canadian citizens’ eyes on a large scale, were among the first commissions of the Toronto 2015 Arts and Culture Advisory Council, which is seeking ways to better welcome and include newcomers before the Pan Am Games. Indeed, most of the people whose eyes were featured are from countries throughout the Americas—including Jamaica, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and St. Lucia—and the public art installation tied in with a special ‘Arrivals’ section in the Toronto Star that featured their individual stories.
“The idea started when I looked at the newspaper’s births and deaths section,” explains curator Devon Ostrom. “It was like a microcosm of Canadian demographics, but I felt we also needed to add an arrivals section. I pitched the concept to the Pan Am Games Organizing Committee and the graphics emerged from there.”
Thus was born ‘Fresh Eyes,’ the 2.5 x 100-m (8.2 x 328-ft) array of graphics—featuring 13 pairs of eyes—installed such that municipal officials could see through them. The project called for a different material than most window graphics, which are generally opaque.
“I went to Jeff Uzbalis, a sales and marketing representative for 3M Canada whom I’d worked with before,” says Ostrom, who has also curated murals and street art in the past. “I wanted a film that would create a ‘lightbox’ effect in the evening, when illuminated from inside the offices. He suggested a material that could do exactly that.”
“They needed a clear window film that could be applied and removed cleanly, for a short-term project with a relatively low budget,” says Uzbalis. “A typical perforated changeable film wouldn’t do the job, because then only people outside could see the graphics, wherease the councillors and their staff inside would just see a mostly opaque backing. The film needed enough clarity and translucency for the images to be visible from both sides.”
In addition to selecting the right film, 3M helped Ostrom find professionals to produce and install the graphics. The company’s preferred installers program led them to Brandon and Jordan Blancher, who regularly apply graphics printed by Unique Media Solutions in Whitby, Ont.
“The client gave us everything we needed in the files and we produced the graphics with a solvent inkjet printer,” says Kevin Cushnam, project manager at Unique Media. “Then the Blanchers wet-installed them overnight. The material conformed nicely.”
“Unique Media does a lot of printing for us at 3M, including graphics for our vehicle wrap workshops, and we’ve never had any problems with the results,” says Uzbalis.
In this case, the more difficult work may have been the planning. Ostrom had to get written permission from all of the councillors and their staff before he could give the installation a go-ahead.
“He had to navigate a lot of stakeholders and get the councillors on board,” says Uzbalis. “It’s not common for graphics to go up on City Hall, but the 2015 group is working closely with the city. It reminded me of an earlier kickoff event at Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.”
The public art installation was viewable from July 10 to 30, at which point the Blanchers were called upon again, to remove the graphics.