Hill of Beans – Bill Cowen


April 10th – 25th, 2016
Closing Reception April 23rd
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm

After more than a decade away from my hometown Sault Ste. Marie, I find myself back for an extended holiday, walking familiar streets, and reconnecting with longtime friends whose presence in my life have, until now, been limited to short bursts of online interactions, random social media postings and the odd phone call. How different it feels to discover them once more in their own surroundings, and how curious to be able to pick up long forgotten behaviours like meeting downtown for coffee or running into people I know at the mall as if no time has past.

My time spent here recently has provoked new questions regarding my identity in relation to this city. For years I have been telling myself that I have moved on, and that these feelings of nostalgia which arise, for instance at the sight of the water tower, or the park by my parents house, will be worth only a “hill of beans” after I leave again. Yet anyone that knows me, should realize how untrue that statement is. Indeed, the more time I spend living here, not merely visiting, the more evident it becomes that these experiences continue to have a deep impact on me, even in their absence. The real question then becomes, what impact do I, or have I ever had, on this city? Perhaps instead, it is my own past contribution to this city’s history, that truly amounts to that old proverbial bean hill.

Therefore, while I am here, I feel compelled to explore these notions further and am inspired to do something substantive, something that can “re-label” myself as a community asset, and that gives something back to a city which has taught me so much.

And so I present “The Hill of Beans Project”, a record of my passing and an archive of the creative endeavours which I hope will inspire those who remain, after I am gone again. As with all of my work, I put a high degree of importance on collaborative placemaking. And continuing in this spirit, I will transform the gallery space into my office for the duration of the show, opening it during business hours (9-5) and inviting select collaborators from my network into the space to engage in special projects.

While the project will use social media to organize, there is a concerted effort to emphasise the physical location.

Furthermore, there will be of effort made to expand my network by inviting the wider community to participate through a number of crowd-sourced multi-media activities, the centerpiece of which will be a collection of 180 cans of beans, carefully re-labeled with original artworks.

For the two weeks this exhibit will be open as a work in progress, as I gather content to be showcased at a final closing party on Saturday, April 23rd.

The final result of of this project will entail an interactive digital map of all my personal local network, as well as a multimedia archive of the creative works I have encountered during the exhibitions run at the gallery. I hope to use this mapping model later in the year to present a larger cultural mapping project to the city of Sault Ste Marie.

Bill Cowen