What’s a Drayway Anyways?

The following is written by guest blogger and current Drayway Art Lounge volunteer Teresa Horosko. Teresa is a writer and student at the University of Winnipeg in the Honours English program. The next Drayway Art Lounge will take place on Friday July 27th. The grand finale event will be held on September 7th.

Recently I’ve been finding myself longing to hang out in an alley with a bunch of paper fish and a beer in my hand. A very specific desire, I know. But thankfully it is a longing that I can easily appease. During the summer months Artspace has been hosting their Drayway Art Lounges. These lounges are a live and interactive installation of a mural in the drayway (often referred to as the “tunnel”) between Artspace and Red River Books. The mural, designed by French-Cuban artist Yoel Jimenez, takes over this iconic space without affecting the use of the passageway. Over the course of two nights in June, hundreds of beautiful paper fish have been wheatpasted on the stone walls of the tunnel. Oh, and the entire event is licensed! That’s where the beer comes in.

I’ve been spending lots of time in this drayway lately. Mostly as a volunteer at the Art Lounges but also as an onlooker of the progress of the installation in the days that follow. The Drayway Art Lounges happen in tandem with the Alleyways Markets put on by the Exchange District Biz. The event is a lounge in which to relax and experience the city’s most artistic area in a new way. Jimenez’s mural named “traversée” is hard to forget about. An already beautiful space that has been used as the setting for amazing moments, such as Nuit Blanche, has now become even more alluring. Currently all the fish are swimming in the same direction just like in migration. I feel the pull of these migrating fish. Whenever I’m in the area I must see how their journey is progressing.

As a volunteer I often stand at the east facing mouth of the tunnel inviting people passing by to join us for awhile. Thankfully, the Exchange District is that special type of area where it is not weird to have someone invite you into an alley. Usually people accept my invitation. The sight of the drayway filled with people and fish piques curiosity. I am there to offer the details on what is taking place and to answer any questions people may have. A common question and one that stumped me the first time is: “What is a drayway?” As I have learned from the Artspace staff and reading up on the subject, a drayway is a covered alley where a loading bay is located. A dray is a cart that carries heavy loads. The Gault building, where Artspace calls home, was once upon a time a dry goods warehouse and would receive many shipments. The drayway is acts as some protection from the elements during the loading and unloading process.

For me, the best part about the Art Lounge is watching the expressions as people get involved and wheatpaste their own fish. There’s a simple joy worn on their faces. Eyes are lit up and smiles break out throughout the tunnel. For a moment people are involved in creating something with one another. It’s public art that is totally accessible. It does not alienate anyone by being exclusive. It does not require people to have an extensive experience with art. It does not come off as cold or only for the elite to enjoy – criticisms that I have heard about public art. It is warm and it invites people to join in the migration. Anyone is free to come and enjoy and participate. The mural fits the space it inhabits. This event and mural is a way for the community to interact with public art and public space while experiencing it together.

For those who have already joined us, I can’t wait to see you again! Can you still spot your fish on the wall? For those of you who haven’t joined in, don’t miss your chance! The next Drayway Art Lounge takes place July 27th, come join us for a beer and a paper fish or two.