The premise was a simple, but compelling idea centred around what was and what could be in the downtown core. My portion of the exhibit featured the photo essays that I had captured of some of the historic and abandoned structures in downtown Medicine Hat for my Around the Hat series. This would be contrasted against Spectacle's architectural and design work for how some of these underused spaces could be reimagined for modern developments.
What made this concept pop was that it was hosted in a then vacant Beveridge Block at the same time as 2nd Street was in the final stages of receiving a massive upgrade. The weekend long exhibition debuted on September 27, 2013 and saw hundreds of curious visitors come through the doors including fellow artists, business owners, city councilors, and the mayor.
Following the initial exhibition, Thinking Hat was displayed in the public library and eventually ended up in several of the vacant storefronts on 2nd Street. Amazingly, the project was left visible to the general public for nearly half a year. Why after all these years though, you may be wondering, has Thinking Hat still come up in conversation from time to time?
Not long after our exhibition in the Beveridge Block the building, which had been vacant for more than a decade, was sold and completely renovated into an impressive event space. While we can't take credit for that, the work we did to put on this exhibit was the first time the building had been accessible to the public in years. It was also arguably the best it had looked in a long time too. Naturally, it sparked a lot of conversations.
At the end of 2018 I also released a documentary short called On 2nd, which was about the changes I had witnessed on 2nd Street as part of shooting my Around the Hat photo series. The project featured some of the footage I captured during Thinking Hat, and to date the documentary short has been viewed several hundred thousand times.
I still look back fondly at what we achieved with Thinking Hat, not just because of the feedback, but because it felt like we were stirring the pot on a discussion about downtown that had felt stagnant. Thinking Hat added more to the conversation by highlighting the good, the potential, and the proof that there was more here than people realized. It was a good start.
|Jessie Andjelic and Philip Vandermey of Spectacle, and Luke Fandrich of Editing Luke (me).