Public art jury got this one right. Intriguing piece of art in a great location. Kudo’s to Dan Lawrie for putting up the cash.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  January 14, 2013   It took long enough, but the best of the three finalists in the most recent public art competition was announced today.

Peter Powning’s work, Spiral Stela, has been selected as the winning design for a public art installation at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Powning, of New Brunswick, was selected from a group of 119 artists from around the world who submitted designs for the project.

This Cooke-Sasseville piece had a lot of energy and colour and a level of detail that isn’t apparent from a photograph this size.   Was there a concern that the colour would fade over time?

This piece by Aaron Stephen was to be installed at the side of the Performing Arts Centre where it would not get the  exposure that was hoped for.  There was an immense amount of detail for the public to take in but the height on the piece on the side of the building might have made it difficult to fully appreciate.

A jury of local residents and cultural arts experts short-listed applicants to three finalists. More than 500 residents gave feedback, online and in person, on the three designs. After reviewing public comments, the volunteer jury selected the winner.

The jury included: Ian Ross, Executive Director of the Burlington Art Centre; Emma Quin, Executive Director of the Ontario Craft Council and Trevor Copp, Artistic Director of Tottering Biped Theatre

Because Burlington has difficulty with artists who don’t “come from here it might be a useful exercise to show all 119 applications – let the public understand what the jury had to work with.

The spiral will be 16 feel tall and will be outside the Performing Arts Centre for many,many years.  How will Burlingtonians take to the piece and how will the artist decide what to “decorate the piece with?

The nature of the Powning piece of art is such that Powning now needs to meet with the community and solicit objects that can be included in the final fabrication.  This is a truly exciting aspect of the design.  Clearly there will be lots of WW I and WW II medals brought forward for inclusion but what else will the residents of Burlington come up with?

We are about to see just how imaginative the residents of the city can be.  Whatever is selected will be part of the sculpture that will be outside the Performing Arts Centre on Locust Street for many, many years to come.  Hopefully the city will promote the daylights out of this and use every possible media and not just their favourites.  If there was ever an event that could put social media to the test – this is it.  City hall doesn’t understand social media and is to some degree afraid of it – this could be their opportunity to see if it will work for them

The artists might have a budget to get his need out to the public and the  Performing Arts Centre could, hopefully, turn its promotional guns on this one.  Whatever gets brought forward and used in this sculpture will be around for a long, long, long time.  At least as long as the Pier and we are going to spend $20 million on that sucker.

The objects in this illustration are examples of what have been used on other sculptures – this is an opportunity for Burlington to put its memorabilia on display and have it become a part of the public record.  A spike from the old CNR line that ran along the edge of the lake?  A can from the cannery that used to be on the water’s edge.  The only limit is our imagination.

Will someone put in a call to the Historical Society and get them involved?

Powning is calling the meetings at which residents bring in their objects “cultural mulch”.  The artist will make a mould of the items chosen. There will be a significant number of items used.  The molds will them be used to form the bronze castings that will be part of the final sculpture that is expected to be installed during the late summer of 2013.

There will be three “cultural mulching” sessions at the end of January and early February.

Central Library

2331 New Street,  Holland Room  Thursday, January 31 – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Burlington Performing Arts Centre

440 Locust Street,  Main Lobby – Thursday, January 31 – 7 to 9 p.m.

Burlington Art Centre

1333 Lakeshore Rd., Lakeshore Room – Sunday, February 3 – 2 to 4 p.m.

Drop by one of the sessions below with an item to contribute to the project.  See it as something like one of those Antique road shows that are televised – but this time you’re not selling something or learning what its value might be you – you are becoming a part of the city’s history.

After his lecture in February Powning will be looking at objects people have brought in and. according to a statement from the city, casting the objects that day.  People are asked to bring in just one object each.

Powning is not new to Burlington.  His work is represented in the Burlington Art Centre’s Permanent Collection with five pieces.  The city also saw some of his work during the East Coast Potters exhibit.  His work is not currently on display but one can expect that to change.

Powning will give a short lecture about being an artist, whose work ranges from vessels to large-scale public art.  He will talk about his experience responding to RFPs and working with municipalities/developers.  An opportunity for Burlington artists to hear what a commercially successful artist has managed to do.

Spiral Stela continues the successful career of Powning who has completed several public art projects across the country and whose work can be seen at solo exhibitions worldwide.

This sculpture came to be when  long-time Burlington resident and successful business owner Dan Lawrie, decided the Performing Arts Centre should have something outside the building and offered to fund a portion of the cost.  Some members of city council wanted a bit more than Lawrie was prepared to put up, and the $37,500 cheque he did write isn’t exactly chump change.

The work is scheduled to be installed in late summer of 2013.

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