In the early 2000's the town of Oakville was looking closely at itself. A revised town plan, comprehensively visualized through online maps, revealed how new subdivisions, public spaces and roads had transformed the former village. To offer local residents fresh ways to appreciate their built environment, Oakville Galleries launched a public programming initiative entitled Site Scope.
Four creative thinkers from outside the community were invited to live in the gallery for one month. Each, in turn, ventured into Oakville or its surrounding region to chart a particular territory of experience based in the landscape. Encouraging others to follow or join their forays, Site Scope residents conveyed their journeys in specially designed websites.
Sketching a context for the program, art and architecture critic John Bentley Mays used his residency to observe local life and tap into conversations on the community's growing pains. Through a series of online essays that invited feedback from readers, he probed the search for personal security that gave rise to fear of urbanization and nostalgia for village life.
Ottawa based artist Jeff Thomas's residency in March 2004 involved a series of day-long road trips centred on Halton County. Throughout his journey Thomas noted the use of a mythical Indian past as a place signifier. He marked the trail made by the invocations of an archetypal Indian in the landscape as it surfaced in roadside signs and sites. Challenging this reduction of his cultural identity he registered his own place-based memories of growing up Iroquois/Onondaga.
In the fall of the same year, Vancouver artist Kirsten Forkert made an open-call to the community to share their experiences of Oakville's public spaces. She herself set out to explore Oakville's car-oriented travel corridors as a pedestrian and cyclist. At the same time, she lingered in the town's spectrum of public spaces observing the gap between the intended and actual use of these sites.
In November 2004, landscape historian Pleasance Crawford invited townsfolk to collaborate with her in discovering visual evidence of domestic gardens designed in the first half of the twentieth century. Calling for people to search their albums for photographs taken in back or front yards she set out to create an online inventory of physical form and memories associated with these overlooked spaces.
Site Scope expanded Oakville Galleries' programming by proposing the use of the town and its environs as a field of alternative visual experience. It tested the internet's power to engage people with the place in which they live through alternative mappings and path-findings and enhanced the community's involvement with issues that would be front of mind for decades to come.
Site Scope's public programming stream was initiated in 2002 with a web-based participatory project titled Home Truths. It presented a behind-the-scenes, intimate representation of town life through artist Susan Dobson working with a spectrum of residents on a portrayal of their daily existence as captured in the ad hoc appearance of their home interiors. These, in turn, were the basis of a media-based guessing game around social types in the town population.
Site Scope was funded through the Province of Ontario, Trillium Foundation.