It finally happened this summer, in an East Van back lane. In the space of one (hot!) half-day, the tiny tarmac'd alley was transformed into someplace special, as neighbours turned found colourful shards of china and pottery into mosaic-ed markers of their home and family.
With a plan in place weeks before, each household thought about a particular design (or not — serendipity works too) and collected chipped china dishes, old toys, and mementoes, the whole endeavour of collecting pieces becoming a conversation piece itself among neighbours. The day before tagging day, someone from each household used chalk to draw a shape of their choice for their mosaic and some of the handier people carved out the layer of tarmac by tracing the chalk lines with a jigsaw. As night fell, the sound of smashing plates could be heard.
On the morning of the laneway intervention, kids helped stir up cement mix and water, and everyone got busy inserting their bits and pieces into the concrete and touring the lane to watch their neighbours' progress.
I love the thought that these upcycled bright bits of pottery and china have created sweet little urban interventions in all that grey tarmac that will withstand our soggy seasons and be around long after the kids grow up and the families move away.
It's the kind of project that would never get permission, but the city is forgiving when it comes to community-building. In fact, the block party that night was funded by a small neighbourhood grant from the Vancouver Foundation just for that purpose.
The mosaic tags remain there as emblems to those families, this time and place, and that one connective neighbourhood event — well, until the developers win.