The City sets aside a certain small percentage of its major capital projects budget (such as road reconstruction) for art installations. West Siders know the ones: Preston Street granite postcards from the piazzas, West Wellie’s marble veggies, the red chairs in the Glebe.
The just-getting-completed reconstruction of Somerset between the OTrain tracks and Booth had a very small art budget. One that had to cope with three distinct areas: Chinatown, the bit of Little Italy around Preston, and the OTrain viaduct-bridge. With public consultation, the decision was made to have two installations: one on the Chinatown hill, and one on the viaduct hill.
Now that they are installed, I must confess to being underwhelmed.
This is not to blame the artist, or the jury. The whole process is bureaucratic, with everyone from snowplow crews to the BIA’s to merchants to traffic signals people getting involved. The right of way is constrained. No use can be made of the big open space over the actual streets themselves (it might distract the motorists from their speedy way…) or an island in an intersection or roundabout.
There was no place to install a single big item, since the centre block was already occupied by the Postcards sculptures and Vietnamese boat people monument. Nothing could hang off the sides of the viaduct, or use the handrails. Ottawa Hydro offered cooperation in installing lit art, but all such proposals were rejected by the jury.
You can see the alternatives at this earlier post: http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/public-art-for-somerset-street/
Sunlight, and at night lamplight, is supposed to shine through the chosen installations to cast interesting light patterns on the sidewalk pavers.
The ped lights on the viaduct over the OTrain should have a dozen giant planters installed this fall, between the lampposts, each with two locust trees planted in it. This will further reduce the visibility of the art.
Yet to come: 48 granite sidewalk inserts with the Chinese zodiac characters carved into them. This is not part of the art process, it is part of the sidewalk pavers design.
Please feel free to use the comments field below. And, just for info, the Bronson reconstruction is likely to use one or two larger pieces as “gateways” rather than a lot of smaller pieces along the street.