Watch my life unravel...



Top Canadian Blogs - Top Blogs

Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Swap Boxes Popping Up Everywhere

I ran into John at Mexi’s the other evening while waiting for my Dad and Merle, and John plied me with tequila and said his favourite blog posts were the ones about the Swap Boxes. And, he pointed out, there hadn’t been a Swap Box post for quite some time.

His timing was perfect because I just happen to have some brand new Swap Box pictures AND some Swap Box news. Good news and bad news. I always like to hear the bad news first so I can get it out of the way and then get cheered up by the good news. Is that how you like it too?

Remember my very favourite Swap Box which was right outside the Invisible Theatre and across the street from Venus Envy? It was the Mayor Larry Swap Box. Pretty much every day I would put something into it – lately it was a daily tarot card.

Well, a little while ago someone yanked the door off it, and it wasn’t the same after that. I blogged about it, and Elmaks very kindly went and replaced it with a brand new Swap Box the very next day.

Mayor Larry Swap Box:

The Mayor Larry Swap Box

Replacement Swap Box (nicknamed the LCBO Swap Box):

LCBO Swap Box

What they look like now:

My Swap Box was Murdered

So that’s the bad news. I no longer have a Swap Box on my daily route.

The good news is that I ran into some of the CCOC women at the Red Salon Artists show at Patrick Gordon Framing, and they told me about another Swap Box and a street art project I didn’t know about. Monday I went down to Gladstone and Percy and checked it out.

Swap Box

Street Art is Not a Crime

Full of Treats! I took a hair clip and some jazz beads (the kind they throw at the audience at Bluesfest), and left a tarot card and a cat toy.

Inside the Swap Box at Percy and Gladstone

Kitty-corner from the Swap Box was this Plexiglass Flower Case screwed to a telephone pole. It’s got real flowers in it! Isn’t it fabulous?
Plexiglass Flower Display

Metal Swap Box in the GlebeAnd then, on Tuesday, when I was walking to Mexi’s in the Glebe, I stumbled across this very cool Swap Box. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to clean up a Swap Box when it’s full of icky stuff that nobody will want, like soggy sticks of gum or empty coffee cups. In this case I didn’t: it was full of flyers but they looked kind of interesting. Occasionally I’ll remove something if it’s so gross it’s going to affect the Swap Box’s usability. I only do it if I have no doubts whatsoever, because it feels a bit wrong for me to decide what’s good enough for the swap box and what isn’t.

I’ve been saving all the things I get from all the swap boxes and one of these days I’m going to make a piece of assemblage art out of them.

I love street art, especially participatory street art like the swap boxes. I think it should be encouraged. It brightens the city and makes it feel friendlier and less alienating. I’d love for Ottawa to host a Street Art Festival.


15 comments to Swap Boxes Popping Up Everywhere

  • Gillian

    You get to be organizer and mover. Talk to your councillor and see where you can go with it. If you figure out who to talk to, you might be able to make it happen. No, I won’t help.

  • I love the swap box idea… so much that I have one that’s ready to paint and hang. I need to find a worthy telephone pole somewhere in Westboro.

  • I ride by Gladstone and Percy twice a day and I never saw a swap box there. Demonstrating how observant I really am. Thanks for telling us about the new boxes zoom.

  • future landfill

    Regretably, a doofus has yanked the door and side from the Gladstone – Percy box. Isn’t there something productive that doofi could be doing? But then I recall dragging my boot heels, leaving deep scores across the lawn bowling turf in my hometown. Musta been a statement, isn’t everything?

  • Yeah I don’t get what they get out of wrecking something. This fountain near me has metal grates to cover the drains where the water splashes down and I just noticed that someone had stomped on them and bent them all down into the drain. This is the same fountain where someone poured detergent several times and made giant soap bubbles. At least that was creating something. I don’t get destruction.

  • oma

    Love the idea of creating art from found articles. I went to an art show a couple of weeks ago where the artist uses found stuff, photographs it and then plays with it and uses the images to create collages. The collages are mainly whimsical. I bought one of her prints … real high rise housing for real people created from photos of real single dwelling houses.It’s called The Homemade Highrise. The artist is Barbara Carlson.

  • XUP

    I think you’re ready for your own swap box – the knitnut swap box – and you could knit little finger puppets that look like famous Ottawa personalities. (I can’t wait)

  • Alicia

    I wonder how often the flowerbox gets new flowers since every time I’ve seen it over the last week (3 times including your photo) there are new and fresh flowers. A little wilted by 8pm but still there.

  • Gillian, I’m a lot of things but one thing I ain’t is an organizer.

    Andrea – excellent, please let me know when you’ve found the perfect pole and hung your Swap Box. I’ll schedule a field trip to Westboro!

    Robin, you’re one of the most observant people I know, but maybe you miss stuff at eye level?

    Future Landfill – Awwwwwwwwww. That’s so disappointing! But I’m glad I saw it before it got destroyed. (I had to dig deep for the silver lining there…)

    Julia, I don’t get it either…I just figure they’re angry about something, and maybe they’re taking it out on stuff rather than people (there’s that silver lining again…)

    Oma, it sounds interesting. I’ll look forward to seeing it.

    XUP, ha ha ha. The day I start knitting Little Larrys is the day you guys should schedule an intervention.

    Alicia, the driver of the #14 and I were discussing that very question on the bus ride home today. I like to think the residents of the Percy/Gladstone neighbourhood have taken it upon themselves to keep the box supplied with fresh flowers.

  • future landfill

    Will wonders never cease? A new and improved box has been istalled just next to the vandalized one at Percy/Gladstone. I’ll round up some oddments to put in it. The flower box does seem to have fresh additives regularly, but there are any number of avid, even guerilla, gardeners in the neighbourhood so as long as the box remains intact it will likely be attended to.

  • I am *so* happy to hear there’s a new box at Percy & Gladstone…especially since vandals completely finished off the box at Lisgar and Bank today.

  • wow, love the plexiglass with flowers one.

  • swap box keeper of primrose

    it’s a very sad day in this neck of the wood has our swap box was stolen,
    I will put another box up soon but i have to take time to heal.
    But on another note i’m very excited as i’m going to the rollerdisco night tonight at the brewer parc arena .
    Should be a blast from the past.

  • Oh no! I loved your swap box! I still have the little metal mouse I got from there – I keep him handy on my computer desk because I like to fondle him.

    Let me know when you get your new one up, and I’ll come down and take some pix and blog about it.

    And have fun at the rollerdisco tonight!

  • […] Boxes are a form of interactive street art. They can be made and installed by anybody. They are small hand-decorated boxes, attached to public places like telephone poles or boarded up storefronts. Instructions are usually […]