OTrain Artwork Proposals Unveiled

It was off to Carleton U on Monday night for the public unveiling of the four finalist artworks in competition to grace the OTrain route. Recall that a percentage of all capital projects (such as this summer’s repairs and still-incomplete enhancements to the OTrain track) is to be spent on Art.

The whole competition had some unfortunate aspects to it. One, the finalists were selected while the OTrain itself was shut down. So none of the artists actually stood on the Carleton U platform, or Dow’s Lake station, or even Greenboro. None could walk up close to their installation site.

It became apparent talking to the four artist finalists that none were regular OTrain users. Indeed, I suspect none had actually ridden it at all. They all described locations for their art in relationship to parking lots and road overpasses, not platforms. They certainly haven’t experienced Dow’s Lake on a cold spring day, or Carleton Station in February or Greenboro on a hot day in August. Does this make for a certain incongruous disconnect?

It took almost ten minutes at the start of visiting the show to determine which stations were included for the artwork. The artists were vague about this; they didn’t know the names of the five stations, but after considerable prompting it turns out the stations eligible for artwork were Carling, Carleton, and Greenboro. (City staff manning the desks weren’t any better informed).

Three artists did stand-alone artwork, of the “look at that, it’s art” type; and one did an installation piece whereby the art forms part of the station itself.

Judith Berry did the installation piece, using Carling Station as its one site. She proposed coating the concrete walls on the side of the cut with porcelain tiles, water cut with geometric shapes and florals. In these pictures the tiles were predominately gray:

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but she has changed the colour scheme so that the background colour is now a soft yellow, as shown in this sample of materials and colour:

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Berry has also done the floor mosaic in front of the two storey curtain wall of the Meredith Centre on Cecil Road in Chelsea.

Stuart Kinmond did a colourful piece called Locomotion, for installation on the east side of the Carleton Station. Bright red is both the OC Transpo colour and one of the Carleton colours.The current OTrain is bright red, but will the new trains running in the spring be red? Here are some photoshop illustrations:

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The tall graphics on a stick would also help wayfinding the Carleton Station since its presence is understated despite being in the centre of campus. I thought this sculpture could also be applied very well at some other semi-hidden stations, like Carling or indeed most every station. Kimmond chose the Carleton location because it is the busiest station on the line. While it would give the city engineers a fit, the sculpture might also be appropriate located between the two tracks.

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Marcus Kucey-Jones proposed a carving from a single block of Indiana Limestone. The main frame of the block would be a book, with bookmark, about 7′ tall and 3′ thick. A life-size human cutout would be freestanding nearby.

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Note too that Carleton’s crest is an open book. Marcus is probably best known in Ottawa for the Wellington Marbles sculptures in Hintonburg and co-author of the billowing glass globules on the Somerset lightposts.

Artist Shayne Dark submitted some tubular metal sticks. He had a photo book on display illustrating his many stick theme and variation installations. For the Carleton Station, these would be freestanding (shown here on a generic background picture, for scale):

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And at Greenboro and Carling they would be wall mounted:

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Mr Dark has numerous stick installations; in Toronto he has a 50′ tall set of red sticks in front of TD Bank Centre downtown.

You can express your opinion in the comments section  (click the link at the top of the story). The project coordinator from the city will be reading your comments.

11 thoughts on “OTrain Artwork Proposals Unveiled

  1. I guess I’m just not a fan of art, but then again Gatineau has some nice installations ranging from the new mural at Montcalm station to the lighted poles on Maisonneuve. Even their light standards and sound barrier walls are nice looking!

    I find that every single project in Ottawa lately is either hideous or cheap-looking. The City should stop paying 1% to fund permanent street garbage and instead use it to enhance the look of necessary infrastructure!

  2. The first one has potential, assuming not all grey. It’s hard to visualize from the photos there which are a bit drab – transit stations are already bleak especially in winter so I think colour is the way to go.

    Love the second one. Can we have both? But please no random sticks. People will stick gum & other rubbish on them and they will be impossible to keep clean

  3. I hope they keep the Susan Feindel mosaics that are already at the Greenborough station.
    In terms of new art, I like the Kinmond and Kucey-Jones.
    I would also love to see a Graffiti wall at every station- with active and aggressive graffiti clean up everywhere else.

  4. Nothing to see here, folks, just move along. Pretty banal stuff. By that token it might be best to go with the most bland – Berry’s tiles, although I’m puzzled by the B/W-striped circus tents. And has no one figured out that red is the one colour not to use outdoors? Two years in it’s a washed-out splotchy pink.

  5. Not a fan of Berry’s work – the b/w objects look like sad circus tents that fun forgot.

    The wayfinding art is great for its practical attributes much like other cities have giant, lit T’s. I think these would be enhanced if the grey supports were replaced with black – starker contrast- while the red shapes LED-lit or at least outlined with LEDs so you could see them in the dark of night whilst livening up the dark, cold winters.

    The Marcus open book man is cool… but probably would be better suited for a more open space where people would have more opportunity to engage the piece – Carleton is extremely busy it would just get lost in the crowds.

    Dark’s sticks are cool because the art is integrated more into the commuter experience by being on the wall. I think this 1% art budget, should emphasize art focusing on the commuter experience rather than the passerby, corner of the eye art – like floorspace, overhead art, ceiling hangings, lit and coloured tunnels, etc.

    My vote is for an enhanced version of the wayfinding installation.

  6. “They certainly haven’t experienced Dow’s Lake on a cold spring day, or Carleton Station in February or Greenboro on a hot day in August. Does this make for a certain incongruous disconnect?”

    Absolutely. There’s a very good reason that a candidate in the undergraduate Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) had a platform point of heated o-train shelters: http://voteabettercarleton.ca/booklet.pdf (page 3)

    Kinmond’s piece is interesting, but also looks a bit in the way? The fences surrounding Carleton’s o-train station make it very tough for train users to exit because people tend to stand around the entrance. Since there’s only one entrance/exit, this means that folks exiting the train weave in and out of folks waiting for the train and file toward the only entrance/exit… which is full of students during the busy rushes.

    Maybe paint some road maps on the ground in red paint? :p

    Some art installations on the o-trains themselves would be cool, too. How about a huge, green bicycle on the door for bikes?

    Spray paint some stencils of o-trains on the sidewalk leading toward the tracks. Or maybe just get an art installation that heats up the bus shelters.

  7. Wayfinding for finding transit stations is good.

    But the artworks at each station should be high and distinctive so that riders can see where they approaching quick and easily.

  8. I think that the competition should be adjudicated with artists peers alongside whatever section of the municipal council it falls under-the recent Preston St sculpture is deplorable as are the Westboro hydrant :things”-nothing much new with these proposals= Ottawa selections of public sculpture is still backwater because selection is inin the hands of people with no background in public art. Shayne Dark is a professional artist and is recognized nationally and internationally for his work.

  9. “They certainly haven’t experienced Dow’s Lake on a cold spring day, or Carleton Station in February or Greenboro on a hot day in August. Does this make for a certain incongruous disconnect?”

    100% true. Artwork which served as a windbreak, shelter, bike rack, seating, heating, or anything similar would definitely have gotten my vote! Failing that, I pick the “LocomOtion” piece – it looks fun, and wayfinding is always helpful.

    I HATE the tile piece. Something about the colours really bothers me.

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