Orcas reimagined for sculpture near new bridge

A sculpture depicting orcas reimagined as 11 stylized surfboards will greet motorists, cyclists and pedestrians traversing the new Johnson Street Bridge.

The $250,000 sculpture, created by city artist-in-residence Luke Ramsey in collaboration with city Indigenous artist-in-residence Lindsay Delaronde, is being designed to be interactive, with opportunities to play recordings of First Nations drumming and singing.

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Ramsey told councillors Thursday the design is “shaped by simple lines and colour” reimagining the orca form.

“Viewing the sculpture from different perspectives offers many unique viewing opportunities showing movement and stillness,” he said.

The design, approved by Victoria’s art in public places committee, was also approved by councillors Thursday as part of about $3.6 million in proposed spending to landscape and finish public areas adjacent to the bridge.

The sculpture is to be on a triangle island created as the road splits on the eastern approach to the bridge.

Some councillors suggested that story boards be included.

“Just to look at it, I couldn’t relate to it as well as when the artist-in-residence described it,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

Coun. Margaret Lucas said hearing an explanation “really helped me to understand the whole concept.”

But Coun. Geoff Young said one of his ongoing concerns with public art is when it needs to be explained.

“The fact is that the great majority of people passing the site will not have the benefit of any explanation. They’ll see surfboards. They’ll think surfboards. I’m sorry. If I had my way, no public art competition would allow the artist to say even one single word or write one single word.”

The largest component of the bridge-area work will be a new $3-million waterfront park in Vic West, on city land left over from straightening an S-curve road on the west side of the Johnson Street Bridge. The park, which would have pedestrian and cycling connections to West Song Walkway, the E&N Trail and the new bridge, would feature terraced landscaping, and provide seating and views of the Inner Harbour.

Councillors asked for a report detailing how the park construction might be funded.

Coun. Ben Isitt said $3 million for a small park in Vic West is too much all at once. “I love Vic West. It’s a great neighbourhood. It’s improving and that process has to continue, but I do have concerns about what I believe to be a disproportionate share of parks expenditures going to that neighbourhood,” Isitt said.

Others disagreed.

Coun. Pam Madoff called the new park “a city-wide amenity.”

“I think we would be doing the community a disservice if we did not take advantage of being able to create a south-facing park on the waterfront that is going to be designed for gathering, for events and special events,” Madoff said.

Mayor Lisa Helps noted that the project involves “turning a piece of roadway into a piece of park — hence the cost.”

Other proposed work includes:

• $451,500 for new landscaping at the Esquimalt and Harbour Road intersection.

• $343,350 for new landscaping for the triangle island on the east side of the bridge, where the sculpture will be located.

• $38,200 to install more trees, benches, bike racks and garbage bins in the Janion Plaza.

• $20,070 to landscape the Johnson Street centre island.

Staff are recommending that the bulk of the funding for this work be reallocated from unspent or under-budget 2017 projects.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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