By Marla O’Brien
When Canada’s sesquicentennial was approaching, members of the Lake Country Art Gallery and the Lake Country Public Art Commission took the opportunity to ask “what should we do in our community to commemorate the country’s 150th?”
A sculpture symposium culminating in the creation of a new public art work had been on their wish list for many years, and thanks to support from the Central Okanagan Foundation’s Canada 150 grants, their vision is becoming a reality.
“We put out a call for artists to create something that was both interactive and relevant to Canada’s past, present, and future,” said Gallery Chair Sharon McCoubrey. “While celebrating the 150th implies past, we encouraged artists to consider our future and the winning proposal does that with a unique twist.”
The call for submissions went out in February 2017 and 20 proposals were received from around the world. With funding from the Public Art Commission and $13,000 from the Central Okanagan Foundation (COF), the total budget for the project was $50,000.
“Creation of public art is a very specialized skill and there are very few public artists in the world,” explained Petrina McNeill, Manager of Lake Country’s Art Gallery. “Many don’t realize the factors involved, including site preparation, materials, and engineering required to ensure the structure is durable and safe.”
The successful submission came from artist Karl Ciesluk from Ottawa, known for public creations in Turkey, Egypt and Ireland. His vision is to craft a multi-yielding fruit tree using modern materials such as metal and coloured plexiglass, tying to the area’s past and current agriculture industry.
“The tree canopy will have coloured glass fruits embedded in its branches so the sun will shine through to seating below,” McCoubrey shared. “The futuristic twist involves robotic arms reaching down that reference the potential mechanization of fruit gathering.”
Ciesluk participated in Canada Day activities where an event was held to unveil and discuss the vision for the piece, set to be located where Main Street and Berry Road converge this fall. The artist is using local materials and fabricators so the majority of funds stay in the community.
“Often when public artworks are discussed, the issue of price emerges and can raise eyebrows. Yet they become beloved pieces that many visit and an identifier of that locality,” McNeill explained.
The COF was excited to help fund this project as it fits their mandate to support community-based informative and creative work.