Omid Tavakoli wears many hats – he has worked as the gallery assistant at Arts Collinwood, in his own gallery, Popeye, and with the large corporate art collection at Progressive Insurance. Most recently, has taken on the Waterloo Sculpture Garden as his own project when he was selected as a grant recipient for the Artists in Residence Grant program. Omid is one of many artists in North Shore Collinwood who will receive funding for a community-focused art project. These grants will allow artists to expand the scope of their art and work on revitalizing the neighborhood to make it an even better place to be.
“I can’t take credit for the idea”, says Omid of the sculpture garden, “I always knew it was here”. Nevertheless, the Waterloo Sculpture Garden had fallen out of use and become overgrown with weeds in recent years, but the Artists in Residence grant program, which focused on vacant space and public safety as two of its major areas of focus, provided the perfect opportunity for Omid to revitalize the space. He plans to make the sculpture garden a destination to draw people to walk throughout the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District and also improve the safety of the area by installing extensive solar-powered and motion-sensitive lighting around the garden so the street will be well-lit at night.
The grant program also gave Omid the opportunity to expand his artistic horizons. “I’m actually a 2-D artist, but I’m learning more about landscape design”, he says. He is using previous landscaping experience to create a space that resembles an English garden, but with a rustic, natural feeling. He is working on creating various areas throughout the garden of butterfly plants, shade plants, native plants and even a pond and fire pit area, and he intends for the feeling of the sculptures installed in the garden to evolve with the plants.
Omid’s eventual vision for the garden is to involve more sculptors in the Waterloo area and for the sculptures to represent a broad range of art that changes with every new installation. He also hopes that the garden will become a community space that will host everything from yoga to concerts to gardening classes, as well as providing student artists with more opportunities to showcase their work.
Though Omid has a new and unique vision for the space, his design for the space mostly follows the still-visible original design for the space. “You never know what you’ll uncover,” he comments, while describing his discovery of roses that had become overgrown in the corner of the garden. “I’m being very careful what I destroy here – you always want to give something a chance to bloom.”