Proposed public art installation sparks debate in Victoria

$250,000 sculpture complements an interactive sound element of First Nations drumming and singing

A new public art installation proposed for Victoria has sparked debate over the merit and interpretation of city-funded artwork.

B.C. artist Luke Ramsey defended the inspiration and design of the sculpture that incorporates a series of colourful surfboard-type arches mimicking the silhouette of an orca at city council last week.

The $250,000 sculpture complements an interactive sound element of First Nations drumming and singing created by the city’s Indigenous artist-in-residence Lindsay Delaronde.

The art will be installed near the city’s downtown waterfront, and Councillor Ben Isitt questioned the simplicity of the sculpture and its ability to reflect the Indigenous history of the land.

“Just when I look at the art, it … doesn’t feel like there’s a recognition of the local Indigenous context,” Isitt said. “Our artist in residence has done great work on a number of projects and I’m not convinced this meets the mark, but I’m open to being convinced.”

Other councillors advocated adding a plaque to explain the meaning behind the artwork.

“Just to look at it, I couldn’t relate to it as well as when the artist in residence described it and once it was described it brought on a different meaning,” said Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

Ramsey said the sculpture is not intended to be an Indigenous artwork but a creation of his own reflecting the natural environment surrounding the bustling coastal city and the vessels, such as paddle boards, people use to connect with the water.

15 Questions: With Luke Ramsey

READ MORE: Meet Victoria’s indigenous artist in residence

“For me it’s about exploring simplicity in art and trying to convey something that has a meaning and a definition to it,” he said. ”To me this is paying reverence to nature and showing this creature that is coming up in an area that is full of a lot of transportation and activity. This is not necessarily a site that you go to but it goes with you it moves with the activity around it.”

The art installation is part of a larger landscaping project for the waterfront sparked by the construction of a new bridge that is slated to be completed in March.

While the elements of the artwork were debated, Councillor Marianne Alto said it’s not up to the city to determine or define what is Indigenous art.

“I want to caution us to remember that the context in which we’re speaking here is around art,” she said. “We need to be cautious about relying on our own interpretation of what reflects Indigenous art and Indigenous history and Indigenous currency.”

She said the fact that Delaronde and other Indigenous people on the city’s public arts committee weighed in on the project ensured diverse perspectives were considered.

“I want us to make sure we are not imposing our own expectations and interpretations on what is Indigenous by assuming that this is not sufficient or that we need to add another layer,” she said.

The design was ultimately approved by council and that element of the landscaping project is expected to be completed in 2018.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Epic sky palace’: Parksville businesses grant wish for young boy recovering from cancer

Eleven-year-old Kai Hennessey receives treehouse of his dreams

PQB crime report: RCMP on hunt for prowler, counterfeiters, car thieves

Police received 203 complaints the week of Dec. 29 to Jan. 4

Power lines cut as thieves strike Parksville veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Pieces of history: Qualicum Beach is home to massive private skateboard collection

Eric Pinto owns hundreds of boards, spanning multiple decades

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Nanaimo hospital’s new 5,000-kilogram MRI magnet delivered

$1.97-million magnet will boost NRGH medical imaging capabilities

Police suspect foul play in Cowichan Tribes death

Police are looking at foul play in relation to a death on… Continue reading

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Most Read