A&E » Arts

Upping Whistler’s art factor

Checking in on the community’s public arts projects



This summer, Whistler was due to see a sudden influx of public art because some of the bigger projects in 2008, like the Bridgehead Project on the Ted Nebbeling pedestrian bridge and the 2008 village sculpture, didn't come together as expected.

Now, the four basalt sculptures that were created by artist Patrick Sullivan to perch on the corners of the pedestrian bridge have been installed in front of the Whistler Public Library.

"It's really quite a tactile experience - it's carved on all sides, so having it up high and out of the reach of people seemed like an odd thing," explained Kevin McFarland parks planner for the RMOW and chair of the Public Art Committee. "It's also larger than probably fits those podiums."

Now, at the library plaza, people can see all sides of the four-foot pieces, and learn more about the inspiration behind the pieces.

"There are four artists that have inspired (Sullivan's) career; these actually represent those artists," McFarland said. "So there's an interesting connection for folks to learn about that and even go to the library and find out about those artists."

Sullivan will officially unveil the pieces at a ceremony on Saturday, July 18.

Unfortunately, the bronze-cast bear sculpture crafted by Mike Tyler has again been delayed, as the artist is recovered from "a significant injury."

McFarland is still hoping that the piece may be completed and installed by October, then moved to the village lawn, where it is to remain with the other pieces in the collection.

"He's very anxious to have this exhibited in Village Square," McFarland added.

Commissions for projects within the village, like the Village Square and Bridgeheads projects, run from $20,000 to $30,000 to cover artist and design fees, plus other associated costs. That money comes from the Village Enhancement Strategy, an initiative that is funded through the hotel tax. The Valley Trail projects come from general tax revenue and carry a $20,000 commission, though there are no plans for a 2009 phase of this project.

Two local artists, Daniel Poisson and Corinna Haight, recently completed the second bridge mural project on the Blackcomb Way Bridge underpass. Entitled, "Full Circle," the vibrant mural depicts the natural world starting from the highest peaks, descending to the depths of the ocean, and ascending once again.

"It certainly improved, in our opinion, that public space," McFarland said.

There are also some exciting new projects in the works.

Look up next time you're in the village, and you're likely to see one of Toni Lewis's new street banners, which illustrate four Whistler summer activities.

James Smith has also been commissioned to complete the next phase of the Valley Trail Neighbourhood project, which will see the installation of the Three Ravens, sculptures fashioned from recycled bike tires, near the Whistler Golf Course's halfway hut.

Smith has already carved the core of each of the sculptures, and on Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19, as part of the Whistler Art Council's Street Entertainment program, he will enlist the help of the public in "feathering" his creations at the Whistler Gazebo. The completed pieces will then be installed the following Monday.

The second annual competition for the Poets Pause Valley Trail project has also come to a close, and two artists have been commissioned through the anonymous submission process. Whistler's Pam Barnsley was selected for a second year, while a poet from Pheonix, Arizona, Sheila Murphy, was also successful in the competition.

"By virtue of putting anything on the web... the world sees stuff from Whistler, and it surprises us, because it's a $200 commission - it's not exactly a big commission, but it's obviously intriguing to folks, because we had submissions from London, England, and New York City," McFarland said with a laugh.

An opening ceremony for this installation of Poet's Pause will take place at Alta Lake Park on Saturday, July 25.

And there are more public art opportunities just around the corner.

The Public Art Committee will soon be on the hunt for an artist to create a sensory, tactile experience at the future park, plaza and playground at Celebration Plaza.

The RMOW has also allocated $200,000 for a Games legacy art project, which is slated to take place both during and after the Games. The Committee hopes to secure an artist to experience the Games and represent that experience after the Games.

"That's part of the Games fund, so that we actually have our own story told," McFarland said.

McFarland is pleased with the range of public artwork that has recently been completed and points out that there are a bunch of projects on the way, courtesy of other organizations like VANOC and the Whistler Arts Council.

On top of the municipality's public art projects, the Whistler Arts Council has been working with the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations to create a collaborative art project called "Connections," which will be installed by the covered bridge between the village and upper village. They're hoping to receive a grant to create a sculptural legacy for the 2010 Winter Olympics through the Arts Partners for Creative Development agency and are expecting to receive a decision on their application later this month.

VANOC's Aboriginal Art At Venue program will also see permanent art pieces installed at each of the official Games venues.