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This butterfly is painted on the side of Laing House, a non-profit that offers support for young people with mental illness, on Barrington Street in Halifax. (Halifax Downtown Business Commission)

Gritty to Pretty wants to put up outside-of-the-box art pieces in downtown Halifax

By Jacob Moore May 22, 2024 | 6:28 PM

A downtown Halifax art program wants some outside-of-the-box thinkers to apply for funding.

Applications are open for the Gritty to Pretty grant program, which funds art projects in downtown Halifax. The deadline is June 16.

“That’s how it started, just the idea of taking something that maybe didn’t look that nice, like a garbage can, and turning it into a giant bouquet of flowers,” says Butt.

The city is running out of space for traditional art in the downtown area, like murals, according to Jayme Butt, spokesperson for the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

That’s because they’ve already done several murals in the city, but some heritage buildings are protected from having their walls painted, and other buildings under construction can’t be painted.

But that makes artists and the business commission think of new ways to decorate the city, like hanging things from buildings or in windows, or putting bouquets in trash bins.

A garbage bin full of flowers (left) and a painted bench (right) are some of the out-side-of-the-box art ideas the Downtown Halifax Business Commission is looking for. (Downtown Halifax Business Commission)

Butt says signs around the fences of construction sites may also be good places to put art.

“Why can’t we use that space?” she says. “Or these vacant parking lots. Until they’re filled with something, then why can’t we make it beautiful?”

She hopes some businesses will still reach out and offer their walls for murals, but if not, the business commission and the artists will create beauty on their own terms, she says.

Application process

Artists can find information for how to apply and which grant streams would work for them on the Gritty to Prety website.

There are five grants available:

  • Open Grant
  • Mural Grant
  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) Open Grant
  • BIPOC Mural Grant
  • Façade Lighting Grant

Each stream judges applicants by different categories.

Gritty to Pretty also put some metal xylophone flowers outside the Old Halifax Library. (Halifax Downtown Business Commission)

Butt says people from anywhere can apply for the grants, but they have to put the art in downtown Halifax. The grants define the downtown area as the waterfront to Brunswick Street and then south from the Cogswell Street interchange to the southern end of Barrington Street.

More than 10 years of art

The business commission started giving out these grants more than 10 years ago. Since then, more and more people have applied every year.

Back in 2010, artists kept asking the business commission about cool ideas for downtown art, like murals, so they started doing one-off projects, she says.

There was such a demand for it that they decided to make it official and create the mural program, Gritty to Pretty, in 2015.

Now, when people walk downtown, they can see a lot of murals and other types of art, benches, metal flowers that double as xylophones and more.

“It’s about having people have an opportunity to just stop. Take a breath. Enjoy this beautiful art, however it makes you feel and then keep going,” she says.