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Public art in a 'cone'

Public art took several big strides on Monday with two new unveilings, one of which involved a permanent fixture dedicated to prominent contributors to the city’s cultural scene, plus two new exhibits.
Tony Stallard unveiled his public art installation Cone
Tony Stallard unveiled his public art installation Cone

Public art took several big strides on Monday with two new unveilings, one of which involved a permanent fixture dedicated to prominent contributors to the city’s cultural scene, plus two new exhibits.

Botanical arts was the prominent theme running through the unveilings while one exhibit was struck with a major influence from local history.

British artist Tony Stallard unveiled the work from the north side of Rotary Park located at the end of Rodeo Drive and just across the Sturgeon River from the city’s white spruce forest. Cone is an apt title for the piece: the bronze cast statue is indeed a wonderfully accurate not-to-scale representation of a 3.5-m high white spruce cone.

“Public art projects – such as this – are opportunities for artists and St. Albert residents to celebrate our cultural assets, share ideas and to grow our community,” explained Elizabeth Wilkie, the city’s cultural programming manager, during her opening remarks in Riel Park.

The work was chosen out of nearly 30 proposals that were submitted during an open call that was held last year. Stallard has a decades-long career in creating public art with installations located in such countries as Ireland and the Czech Republic, and such Canadians cities as Calgary and Saskatoon. He has exhibited internationally as well throughout the U.K. and Europe and as far aloft as Japan and now here in St. Albert.

The Essex-based new media artist specializes in digital technologies as well as light and sound sculpture. He’s no stranger to massive bronze monuments either. Cone weighs 750-kg and was created in a foundry in China before being shipped to this city. The total budget for the project was $110,000 all-inclusive from jury costs to selection to installation and artist fees of $78,000.

It was part of the city’s Percent for Art Policy which allocates one per cent from eligible capital projects toward the funding of new public art.

Stallard wasn’t just in town for the event. He also installed a new exhibit in the vault area of the Art Gallery of St. Albert where he will also be presenting a public talk as part of the city’s Cultural CafĂ© series.

The exhibit called Frozen Assets pays tribute to the gallery’s heritage as the Banque d’Hochelaga. The artist chose to save many of the spillings from the bronze casting of Cone and arrange them on the floor. Individually, they variously look otherworldly like candle wax and crystals or they can appear intentionally designed for fine jewelry.

On the opposing walls, test tubes of some of the more delicate and precious-looking spillings are hung at eye level for the observers.

What you will undoubtedly notice before all of those, however, is the bright green neon sign with the single word ‘SULPHUR’.

It is the first time that a site-specific exhibit was developed for display solely within the unique room within a room at the gallery.

Frozen Assets will remain on display until Nov. 28. There will be an opening reception this Friday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., coinciding with Stallard’s presentation and Q and A session. In conjunction with StartsFest and the province’s larger Culture Days celebration, he will offer a slideshow survey of his body of work with a focus on his 25 years in the world of public art and how to present public art in other communities.

Some of the content of his talk will be about the value of municipalities dedicating a percentage of civic development projects to new public art.

“I think it’s absolutely essential. If you take that away, you’re just going to get a lot of concrete and bricks. You need art within that building and infrastructure. If you’re going to build a wall, why not build an art wall? If you’re going to build a floor, why not put art on the floor?” he questioned rhetorically.

“It’s all about making the new developments livable and inhabitable for the people to live in. It’s important.”

The Cultural Café talk will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People are encouraged to RSVP in advance as space is limited.

In addition to the exhibit and the presentation, the gallery is going where it has never gone before by co-ordinating a collaborative community art project inspired by Stallard’s work and by taking a huge nod from a major science fiction character.

Spocking: The Art of Subversion is based on the graffiti of paper currency that most people might recognize when looking at the $5 bill and seeing an image of Leonard Nimoy with a bowl cut and pointy ears instead of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Anyone can contribute by dropping in before Saturday at 4 p.m. The gallery hopes that people will scribble their favourite cultural characters, celebrities and other heroes on specimen (i.e. not legal tender) bank notes. Staff will provide the materials for this self-directed activity. The activity marks another StartsFest event and is free to participate in.

The project will continue for the same duration as Stallard’s exhibit.

The Art Gallery of St. Albert is located at 19 Perron St. Call 780-460-4310 or visit for more information.

Following the unveiling of Cone, there was a second unveiling of new public art right inside St. Albert Place. The Gathering is a forged metal sculpture by emerging artist Kyle Walton of Hammer and Forge Design Studio. The piece adorns a section of the library’s window wall facing the hallway. Representing a vine with leaves, the art actually establishes a new monument for the new Cultural Wall of Fame.

It is meant to recognize those people who have had outstanding achievements in arts and culture, who have demonstrated mastery of their crafts, and who have brought distinction to themselves and the community. There were six inaugural inductees, all past winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts: Nell Sadee, Joanna Drummond, Pat Wagensveld, Maureen Rooney and Paul Punyi, Michael Lazar, and Frances Schuchard. Three new inductees will be inscribed on the monument each year, including the annual recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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