Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Billboards declare love for Winnipeg

Project puts residents' tweets on display

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A billboard on Portage Avenue near Maryland Street shows a tweeted message.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A billboard on Portage Avenue near Maryland Street shows a tweeted message. Photo Store

Billboards have started displaying love letters to Winnipeg from people whose affection for their city is too great to keep to themselves.

The project, called Dear City, Canada, was created by Sharon Switzer, the arts programmer and curator at Pattison Onestop, a digital advertising company funding the project in Canadian cities. Several electronic billboards in the city began displaying curated tweets about Winnipeg on Monday.

"Instead of the billboard being just about advertising, I wanted to create, at least temporarily, a space where people could have their own voices heard, seen."

She said tweets were the perfect way to get short yet succinct messages that would fit on the screens.

'We expected people to be a bit more critical, but they weren't. People were very proud and wrote very lovely things about their cities'

-- Sharon Switzer

"On billboards you just don't have a lot of space. You don't have a lot of time to read it (either)," she said.

All tweets that will display on the billboards were submitted between April and June, when people were asked to write messages to their cities. Switzer said a lot of them shared a common theme.

"We expected people to be a bit more critical, but they weren't. People were very proud and wrote very lovely things about their cities," Switzer said.

The tweets that will show in Winnipeg will also mostly be positive. One says: "Dear Winnipeg, I love the fact you're not self-conscious about being flat! Big hills are overrated."

And some people took the opportunity to take a stab at other cities with their tweets, Switzer said.

"There was one great one we played in Halifax that actually says 'Dear Toronto, I left you for Halifax,' " she said.

Animated digital signs are not permitted in Winnipeg due to a bylaw that took effect in April. But the billboards don't break the bylaw because they only rotate between still pictures of the messages, instead of showing animation and script that is moving, Michelle Bailey, a spokesperson for the city said.

The billboards are privately owned and the City of Winnipeg isn't working with the company on this project.

The tweets will show at three locations in the city; One on Wellington Avenue, east of Flight Road, another on Portage Avenue west of Maryland Street and the last on the Disraeli Freeway north of Higgins Avenue.

Other cities in Canada have already had similar billboards since early July, including Vancouver. Switzer said people seemed to really like the billboards in those cities.

The project runs in Winnipeg until Aug. 11.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 B2

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Updated on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:15 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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