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Fur the love of beasties: Edmonton's rich tradition of animals in public art – Londoner

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The late, great Joe Fafard’s Royal Sweet Diamond (2001) on jasper Avenue.

Fish Griwkowsky / Postmedia

Permanent monuments to animals within Edmonton follow a long, long trail, going back to our beginnings.

Animal worship and awe emerges from Palaeolithic times — some of our first depictions of anything were simplifications in paint and chipped stone of the mysterious creatures around us.

Today’s Edmonton is no exception in having our own complicated set of sculptural animal mythologies, carved and cast creatures in wood, stone and bronze — even ice now that it’s winter — all easy to fall in love with. From the Chinese lions at Lucky 97 to the tucked-away beaver in Amiskwaskahegan (Beaver Hills House Park) to the burro downstairs in City Centre Mall, they’re everywhere … once you start looking for them.

What follows is a personal-favourites checklist of animal statues. From granite bears to iron bison to bronze pronghorns — to a landlocked whale at the end of a mall — our ecosystem of animals immortalized in sculptural public art is indeed enviable.


Joe Fafard’s Western Dancer (2004) on Jasper Avenue.

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10. Joe Fafard’s Western Dancer and Royal Sweet Diamond (11214 and 11204 Jasper Ave.) — These two realistically painted heavy-lifters — a horse and a bull — are a reminder of the area’s agricultural roots, the late Fafard’s work appearing cross-country over the years including outside the National Gallery and on a series Canadian stamps. Let’s not forget paskwamostos (1999), his flat bison sculpture out behind Shaw Conference Centre — completing this unofficial triptych.


Olle Holmsten’s Natural History Frieze (1967) at Glenora Building, the former RAM.

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9. Olle Holmsten’s Natural History Frieze (1967, Glenora Building, 12845 102 Ave.) — Basically a big sleepover of wonderful beasties on the east side of the former Royal Alberta Museum, this includes a mammoth, bear and bison. But it’s really the triceratops I’m crushing on here. Back in the ’60s Holmsten was paid $19,500 for this and a Human History frieze on the west side — but every cent of his prize money went to production, and was thus a true labour of love.


Robin Bell’s Open Sea (1985) in West Edmonton Mall.

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8. Robin Bell’s Open Sea (1985, West Edmonton Mall, Phase I, 8882 170 St.) — This would’ve ranked higher in its original spot before a sexy underwear store displaced it, when the whale still lived near the Ice Palace, and more appropriately in a fountain. Still, kudos to WEM for releasing this beloved interactive sculpture before I had to start a #savethewhale media campaign.


John Weaver’s The Pronghorns (1970) — currently hidden away inside the Glenora Building.

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7. John Weaver’s The Pronghorns at Glenora building (1970, 12845 102 Ave.) — Is something still public art if most people can’t actually get to it? The fate of the former Royal Alberta Museum is still unknown, but when asked, officials say so far the plan is to keep this incredible scene within the building (no promises). This one’s a local masterpiece — hope we can all access it again, as cattleman Ian Tyson puts it, someday soon. P.S., Weaver also made the Gretzky Statue.


Mary Anne Barkhouse’s Reign in (ÎNÎW) River Lot 118 Indigenous art park.

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6. Mary Anne Barkhouse’s Reign (2018, (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11) — This whole sculpture park is an incredible addition to the city, but my favourite piece is Barkhouse’s depiction of a hare and fox resting almost back to back. It’s a message of peace atop a band of dinosaur bones — reminding us where we all end up despite our struggles. Brilliant.


Lionel A.J. Thomas’ The Migrants (1957) sits on the east side of City Hall.

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5. Lionel A.J. Thomas’ The Migrants (1957, City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.) — The outrage over this $16,000 modern sculpture of flying geese far exceeded panic attacks over Talus Dome. It was quickly dubbed Spaghetti Tree by haters, and even inspired a mocking novelty song. But now this gentle beauty sits with quiet dignity on the west side of City Hall, just a hop over from the Gretzky statue.


Earl Muldoe with Chester MacLean and Victor Mowat’s ‘Ksan Totem Pole (1983) at Glenora Building.

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4. Earl Muldoe (Gitxsan Master Carver) with Chester MacLean and Victor Mowat’s ’Ksan Totem Pole (1983, Glenora Building, 12845 102 Ave.) — Carved and raised for Universiade ’83, this red cedar log totem pole features Owl, Bear, Salmon, Raven and Frog (relating to the Gitxsan creation story), and Strong Man. You might remember WUGIE, Universiade’s owl mascot, but I like Owl here a little better — even if it didn’t get its own disco theme song pressed on 45.


Craig LeBlanc’s Henri (2010) won an international art award.

Fish Griwkowsky /

Postmedia

3. Craig LeBlanc’s Henri at Terwillegar Rec Centre (2011, 15204 23 Ave.): While there are a number of lions around town, this sleeping cat suspended in a net hammock is local artist Craig LeBlanc’s masterpiece, a subtle reminder that for all our running and heavy lifting, resting is as important a part of exercise as pushing it to the limit.


Roy Leadbeater’s 1968 Rod of Asclepius at U of A Hospital is technically untitled.

Fish Griwkowsky /

Postmedia

2. Roy Leadbeater’s Untitled (1968, 112 Street entrance, University of Alberta Hospital, 8440 112 St.) — This heavy-metal party snake used to hang over at the Faculty of Medicine, its double helix, exploding Maple Leaf and hissing mouth making it look like a logo for an Marvel-movie evil corporation. Rediscovering this evocative Rod of Asclepius over at U of A Hospital was pure pleasure.


One half of Brandon Vickerd’s two-statue Wildlife (2015) at 10234 96 St.

Fish Griwkowsky /

Postmedia

1. Brandon Vickerd’s Wildlife (2015, 10234 96 St.) — Philosophically, there’s just so much going on with these two humanoid figures made up of animals, hanging around day and night in the Quarters. Cast in bronze, Vickerd used taxidermy animals as models for his final sculptures, and they really do comment on how urban environments are an ever-rotating system of displacement for all animals, including us.

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So you want my arts job: Art Installer – ArtsHub

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A rare opportunity saw Andrew Hawley join the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) as a casual art handler after graduating from his BFA in Drawing at RMIT in 2003.

Eighteen years later, he is now the Collection and Exhibition Preparator at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), known for their eccentric and challenging exhibitions, and undoubtedly, one of the most exciting environments in which to work in art installations, storage, and exhibition preparations.

He also holds a Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation from the University of Melbourne, and has worked across ACMI, the Victorian Arts Centre, ExhibitOne, POD Museum and Art services, and the Melbourne Immigration Museum.

From Ron Meuck’s 10 metre infant sculpture to Ai Weiwei’s White House (2015) in Mona’s Siloam, Hawley and his colleagues are the answer to your question: ‘But how did they manage to get it there?’

Here, Hawley shares the excitement of working on high-profile exhibitions and discusses the skills you would need to pursue this challenging but rewarding profession.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?

In a nutshell; I prepare artwork and other culturally significant material for storage, exhibition and loan, and assist with exhibition/display installation. My role is quite varied but I spend most of my time at our off-site collection store where I design, construct and fit out custom packing units for artworks. These vary from timber crates and travel frames to archival board boxes, archival tubes for rolled works and the occasional solander box. I also ensure artwork is clean and display ready. 

I organise and maintain the off-site collection storage area which involves a lot of 3D Tetris. I work closely with colleagues including registrars, a conservator, a mount maker and several other very highly skilled art handler/technicians as well as a wider team of kinetic artwork and time based media technicians.

I assist with exhibition installation/deinstallation and collection changeover at the museum and some external locations during festivals.

I’m also a qualified paper conservator so I undertake some conservation assessments and treatments when required.

Read: So you want my arts job: Museum Program Producer

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR CAREER?

I finished a fine art degree in 2003 and was looking for something outside the hospitality industry and inside the museum/gallery industry. Luckily, a regular customer at one of the venues I worked in (as a chef/cook), let word slip that the National Gallery of Victoria were hiring casual art handlers to prepare to move into the refurbished premises at St Kilda Road. I got the boss’ details, wrote an application letter, attended a job interview and somehow was successful, despite no prior experience.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THE MOST IN YOUR JOB?

Unique challenges and a reliance on lateral thinking for solutions – something I experience almost every day. I also have great colleagues with whom I liaise about all aspects of the job. We learn from each others’ creative perspectives.

I love the excitement of a large or high profile exhibition, including engagement with external or international artists and curators, trying to help realise a vision that may or may not be clear in everybody’s mind. I equally love the calm and solitude of a collection store and the fact that I work so closely with museum objects on a daily basis. If I have a bad day, looking at an ancient Egyptian mummified cat or some 2,000 year old bronze knife coins is very soothing. 

IN AN INTERVIEW FOR YOUR JOB, WHAT SKILLS AND QUALITIES WOULD YOU LOOK FOR?

Similar institutional experience in a similar capacity (eg. art handling, art packing) would be a must. It takes many years to attune yourself to the level of care required around culturally significant objects and irreplaceable artworks.

Other qualifiers would include:

  • A strong work ethic
  • An ability to handle multiple projects with strict deadlines
  • The ability to delegate fun jobs
  • The ability to undertake monotonous or tedious jobs
  • Strong, clear communication
  • Patience
  • Physically fit and able

The ability to look outside oneself and one’s own experience for solutions. It’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of position and a good Jack should know when they need to call on a master of something.

Someone who prefers order and neatness in their professional life. I’m in no way the neatest person in my private life but organising a storage area that keeps artwork safe and secure requires a high degree of attention to detail.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE INSTALLATION EXPERIENCES/PROJECTS THAT YOU’VE WORKED ON?

There’s been a lot over the years – I’ve done everything from helping carry and install a 10 metre silicon sculpture of an infant (Ron Mueck) to hanging iconic works from Picasso, Munch or Tom Roberts. From installing 100 tiny neolithic arrow/spear heads in one showcase to helping build a large, imperial Chinese house framework on glass balls (Ai Weiwei), and from installing famous AFL players’ jerseys in a sports museum (MCG/Australian Sports Museum) to hanging stills from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey (ACMI).

It’s hard to pick one moment from one project. In recent times, it’s probably been the preparatory work and final install of big MONA shows like On the Origins of Art, The Museum of Everything and our recent Monanisms 2021 collection based exhibition.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING HAPPENING IN YOUR SECTOR AT THE MOMENT?

We’re still operating and I still enjoy my job.

Read: So you want my arts job: Theatre Technician

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Art installation using analogue telephones to bring people closer together – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON –

An art installation at Butler Memorial Park aimed to bring people closer together with the use of landline telephones.

Six phones were set up on a closed intercom system over the weekend. When soneone picked up one phone another one in the park would start to ring, allowing people in the park to talk to each other from afar.

“For some generations, one of the things you do to pass the time is just pick up the phone and call a friend and have a chat and using these traditional telephones, I think, has a bit of nostalgia associated with it,” said Wayne Garrett, one of the artists.

The installation Sunday was just a prototype for a future piece Garrett and Caitlind Brown are working on.

“The form of the artwork is going to depend on our experiment today,” said Brown. “So no matter what, there’ll be some sort of element of domestic object.”

The installation was only up for the weekend, but people can call 877-516-2990 to leave a message that will be used in the full installation.

“The content from those messages will be on the voice mail of the eventual installation so that if someone picks up a phone in the park and no one answers, then they’ll hear these messages that other people left and they’ll have a chance to leave a message for the future,” said Garrett.

A pop up art installation was connecting Edmontonians. Sunday Oct. 24, 2021 (CTV News Edmonton)

If this installation goes forward in the park, it’ll sort of be like a walkie-talkie system, so the people who use this space often, maybe they’ll see a friend across the park and the phone closest to their friend will ring,” added Brown.

“So there’s a possibility for the phones to be useful, but more than anything we imagine this idea of, maybe people who don’t know each other already, like strangers, having a conversation and connecting in some small way, even if it’s just a voice mail.” 

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Rockland roundabout art installation put on hold – Campbell River Mirror – Campbell River Mirror

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Plans for an art feature at the centre of the Rockland Road and Highway 19A roundabout are on hold, and a new design evaluation process will be launched in consultation with the local arts community, after a decision by city council.

The roundabout feature was planned as the cherry-on-top of the city’s three-year Highway 19A upgrade project, now otherwise complete.

In August 2019, four feature concepts designed by McElhanney landscape architects were shortlisted by city council. The city then asked residents to weigh-in on them and received 1,300 votes. Among the designs, a “Tide Pool” concept received the most votes and was selected as the winning theme in March 2020.

RELATED: ‘Tide Pool’ selected for Campbell River’s Rockland roundabout centrepiece

But some members of Campbell River’s arts community were frustrated by not being involved in this process. Because of this, Ken Blackburn, Campbell River Arts Council executive director, with support from other community representatives, requested in an Aug. 20 letter to council that the process be put on hold.

The “Tide Pool” design is “pedestrian, bland, weakly composed and absolutely not representative of the thriving arts community of Campbell River,” said Blackburn, in the letter. “It is a poorly thought through engineering add-on.”

In response, Campbell River city council voted on Oct. 18 to put the plans on hold. The motion also directed staff to engage with the Arts Council in a new design process.

Coun. Kermit Dahl said during the meeting he supports putting the project on hold given current economic hardships faced by businesses, families and individuals — a view echoed by Councillors Ron Kerr and Sean Smyth.

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to be spending large sums of money on something that might look pretty in the middle of the highway,” said Dahl.

But Coun. Colleen Evans, who proposed the motion, said its purpose is to put the funds on hold to allow for a more engaged design process, rather than shelving the project indefinitely and redistributing the funds to other projects.

“To basically exclude the arts community from being engaged in something that could become significant for Campbell River, I think is a missed opportunity,” said Evans.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he would stand by city council’s original decision in favour of McElhenney’s design.

“I don’t know why council keeps on reconsidering motions because we get a little bit of flack,” he said.

The decision to restart the process will cost the city time and money, added Cornfield.

City council’s decision to restart the process was welcomed news, said Blackburn, in an interview.

“I think it’s just respectful to the arts community to acknowledge that what we were getting wasn’t really representative of the arts community here,” he said.

The Arts Council hopes to engage with other representatives of the local arts community, including the art gallery, museum, Patrons of the Arts and local First Nations.

“I’d really like to encourage collaboration, with artist teams or even cross-cultural collaboration, but that’s just my own preference,” said Blackburn. “The ambition is that we will have a piece that represents the culture of this community.”

READ ALSO: Campbell River constable sets record straight on correct way to use roundabout



sean.feagan@campbellrivermirror.com

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