by Gillian Crowley –
Two locals and their visitors stop along the Sidney waterfront walk to consider a figure-like sculpture called The Muse. “What do you think it is?” asks one. Another surveys it from a different angle and says: “I’m wondering what the artist is saying to us?” Nearby, a visiting couple stop to take photos of Mount Baker through the frame of The Eye of the Ocean (above) which won the People’s Choice award in 2014. They are surprised to learn the “Eye” is not a real whale bone but created from steel and fibreglass.
The photography and comments are exactly the types of responses the Sidney Sculpture Walk was designed to elicit. Free-standing sculptures integrated with the natural backdrop of the Salish Sea and Mount Baker can lift the spirit and open the mind. Other B.C. locales, such as Castlegar and Oak Bay, have revitalized their downtown cores through public art. Sidney, too, has Nathan Scott’s bronze-like figures dotted along Beacon Avenue, and the added advantage of a beautiful sea walkway enhanced with unique sculptures.
Many people don’t realize that seven of the sea walk sculptures are for sale by the artists. An additional one, Ollie the Board Dog, was purchased through community donations and placed at the skateboarding park in Tulista Park where it attracts smiles and chuckles.
In 2011-12 the self-guided Sculpture Walk had a strong start when 12 pieces by North American sculptors were selected by a volunteer committee and installed along the waterfront. Each artist was responsible for transporting their work to their designated location – a costly challenge for heavier projects such as The Keeper, a four-ton sandstone block positioned like a lighthouse to welcome those arriving on the Anacortes Ferry. Under the agreements at the time, the artists expected their works to be on display for two years, sold, and eventually replaced by others.
Wayne McNiven, ArtSea Board director, says: “Although attempts were made to attract more sculptors over the years, it became clear that the Town of Sidney didn’t have the resources to carry out the initial concept.”
This past April the Town and ArtSea Community Arts Council signed an agreement that ArtSea would take over administration of the Sculpture Walk for a five-year term. Wayne says: “I’m excited about the potential to promote this open air gallery that’s a perfect showcase for sculptors.” As head of the Sculpture Walk committee, he has already contacted most of the sculptors of the existing pieces to let them know about the new initiatives. He has also forwarded a proposal to the Town for consideration as they start their five-year municipal planning process.
ArtSea’s first step is to produce promotional material that identifies each sculpture, provides background on the sculptor and includes the work’s sale price. The next step is to seek financial means to continue and expand the Sculpture Walk. Wayne says: “I’m hoping some residents may want to donate a sculpture in a loved one’s name, or a business might donate one as a show of appreciation to the community.”
He feels public engagement and contributions are key. “Without this financial assistance, we could end up with a Sculpture Walk without any sculptures to capture the public’s imagination,” Wayne says. He notes that after Michael Robb, the sculptor of Ponticus, passed away last year, despite efforts to secure the piece, Robb’s family decided to remove it and place it in their gallery.
David Hunwick, sculptor of the much photographed Eye of the Ocean, says: “Sidney has one of the most beautiful backgrounds for a sculpture walk but it’s missing out on many beautiful pieces of sculpture that could further enhance the walk.” David is currently a member of ArtSea’s Sculpture Walk committee and president of the Vancouver Island Sculptor Guild.
Over the next year, ArtSea will be looking for sponsors to purchase and donate sculptures to the Town of Sidney. Those interested in supporting Sidney’s Sculpture Walk can contact Wayne McNiven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on the Sculpture Walk sculptors at http://www.sidney.ca/Things_To_Do/Arts___Culture.htm.
Photo by Wayne McNiven