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

Car fire
Vehicle catches fire on Hardy Bay Road

Port Hardy Fire Rescue arrived on scene soon after and extinguished the fire.

The entrance to the Port Hardy aquatic centre. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Port Hardy to ‘revitalize’ old aquatic centre for 8.5 million

‘If everything goes as planned, there will be no tax increase to cover our portion of the costs’

North Island Votes. Campbell River Mirror graphic
Babchuk declared winner in North Island

Nearly three-quarters of votes counted and mail-in ballots still to come

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Harvesters participating in the extended commercial halibut season will need to land their catch in either Prince Rupert (pictured), Vancouver, or Port Hardy by Dec. 14. (File photo)
B.C.’s commercial halibut season extended three weeks

COVID-19 market disruptions at the root of DFO’s decision

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
Police situation leads to ‘hold and secure’ at North Okanagan school

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

The outbreak is the first within B.C.’s school system since classes resumed back in September

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Most Read