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Orillia's summer of love: Hippie van sculptures roll into downtown (8 photos)

People say 'we needed this uplifting project just to feel that there’s hope again and life will be getting back to normal,' says Streets Alive founder

Streets Alive has parked its latest art project on the main street.

Hippie vans and peace signs have been placed along Mississaga Street as Streets Alive celebrates the legacy of the Mariposa Folk Festival.

“I’m so amazed and so thrilled with the work these artists put into this project,” said Streets Alive founder Leslie Fournier. “They went all out in colour and creativity and elements that they added to just the basic panel. It’s so much more than just paint.”

It’s so much more than an art installation, too.

“It’s like a shift for people’s mental health as well as just being able to get outside and enjoy Streets Alive,” Fournier said. “The biggest message I’ve been hearing is, ‘Oh, my gosh. We needed this so badly. We needed this uplifting project just to feel that there’s hope again and life will be getting back to normal.’”

It was a rewarding experience for Normand and Susan Quintal, the artists behind the hippie van sponsored by Plaza Auto Group’s Orillia Volkswagen, the presenting sponsor for this year’s project.

“I don’t usually show what I do. I show my children,” Susan said. “It’s kind of humbling when you look around. There are so many awesome vans.”

This is Normand’s second time taking part in Streets Alive, a program of the Orillia and District Arts Council. He created a bicycle for the Pedal Power theme in 2019.

“It brightens the street. It’s really for everyone’s enjoyment,” he said. “I hope Orillia keeps doing these kinds of projects because it does promote the city and it makes it look nice.”

Stepping up as presenting sponsor of the hippie van project seemed like a no-brainer for Orillia Volkswagen, said Plaza Auto Group president Robert Stein.

“It’s a Volkswagen bus. It’s the original seed for Volkswagen,” he said. “It’s the hippie bus. Everybody loves and knows the hippie bus.”

It’s an opportunity for his company to “give something back to the community” and support local artists, he added.

“They can show off their talents to people who live here and everyone who comes to our community,” he said.

Shining a light on local artists is what it’s all about, said Christine Hager, board secretary with the Orillia and District Arts Council.

“It creates tourism and it creates some awareness outside the city of what we’re doing in Orillia, which is huge,” she said. “We’re such a creative community and I think the rest of Ontario is catching onto that.”

As usual, members of the public will be able to vote for their favourite sculptures. The plan is to release a souvenir guidebook in July, and public voting will coincide with that.

Fournier said she hoped to announce the winner during the Starry Night studio tour in August, if it happens this year.

More information about Streets Alive can be found on its website and Facebook page.


Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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