How The Birdhouse Got Made

Judy Adler

Judy Adler

From Street Lights to The Nesting Project
In 1999, one year after amalgamation, local chiropractor and sculpture enthusiast, Judy Adler, noticed empty storefronts and an influx of drug-dealing and prostitution on St. Clair. She had an idea to light the avenue’s trees and make it safer at night.

Adler was inspired by the work of Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Akhtar Hameed Khan. He organized residents of Asia’s largest slum, Karachi’s Orangi district, to raise money and build their own sewage system.

Night-time Lighting Along St. Clair
Adler organized residents to collect money from their neighbours. Six months of door-knocking raised $10,000. The city matched the money with millennium funding. However, the budget allowed for only two trees to be lit. Instead, lights were strung on the lamppost arms from Oakwood to Dufferin. St. Clair by night glimmered into the new millennium with $6,500 left over.

The Birdhouse
A newly-formed BIA toyed with the idea of using the money to install solar-powered sculptures along St. Clair. It never got off the ground. Peggy Lampotang, an area resident and artist, suggested a talk with another St. Clair denizen, sculptor Alex Moyle. His inspirational proposal: The Nesting Project on Rosemount Avenue.

What It Took to Get it Done
It took 13 years of patience, perseverance, organizing skills, and hard work.

The Lights:

  • write up the idea, make copies, distribute
  • form and chair St. Clair Improvement Light Committee
  • set meetings and agendas
  • find out more than you ever want to know about: Hydro; installing lights on a main street; lighting equipment
  • knock on doors and ask for money
  • consult, attend meetings, and work with: neighbours; residents’ association executive; St. Clair shopkeepers; newly-formed BIA; City Councillor’s office; Hydro
  • manage personalities
  • build consensus
  • source lights and equipment
  • manage budget
  • report on budget to committees and funders

The Birdhouse:

  • float idea of using leftover money for a sculpture
  • consult with city staff regarding by-laws and regulations
  • wait for the multi-year construction of the ROW to finish
  • get consensus for sculpture on Rosemount Avenue
  • consult, attend meetings and work with: neighbours; residents’ association executive; the artist; city staff at Parks and Recreation and Works Department
  • get approval from residents on Rosemount Avenue
  • consult with the city to: check site for gas lines; build the base for the artwork
  • manage personalities
  • build consensus
  • the artist: research project; provide specs to the city and consult with staff; design, build and install birdhouse; iron out remaining details on the birdhouse; set a date for Phase II.

What’s next?
Adler has joined the movement to close down the uranium processing plant at Lansdowne and Dupont. She’s realistic about the challenge, “If putting up lights is frustrating imagine going up against the nuclear cartel.”