The future with public art

Sitting in my perch on the 21st floor of the Pan Pacific hotel looking down at Burrard Landing, a blue raindrop pierces my view, a perfect example of the power of public art.  Take it away, and that particular corner of the seawall would descend into the land of the predictable and boring.  Instead, this striking sculpture provokes, punctuates, and elevates.

I've taken a number of pictures of it, from various angles, and people invariably wander into the frame wanting to get their picture taken in front of the "big blue thing".

My suspicion is that this pull happens quite organically, unexpectedly, and without a lot of forethought.  Public art activates the imagination and demands interaction.

The plaza outside of the Vancouver Conference Centre is expansive, and were it not for Douglas Coupland's "Digital Orca", crafted of 1500 steel cubes, the space would be silent, possibly foreboding. Instead, the life sized cubist rendering of the majestic sea mammal gives us a sense of place, a powerful connection to nature, water, and suggests questions about the digitization of modern life and what that means in the broader context.

"What are those wooden things," asked someone from the top deck of the boat as we returned from our tour of Vancouver harbour.

"It's a public art piece," answered someone a few paces away.  "At night, they are lit up.  They are beautiful."

The day's sessions are about to begin at the annual FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) conference, so I don't have a lot of time to search for its name or narrative.  I spent a few minutes trying a few obvious keyword searches, but didn't have any luck.  There is a lot of public art in and around the VCC area and adjacent Harbour Green Park. I'm sure there is a source somewhere that would tell who did what pieces, their names and narratives, but for now let me say how much I love it and long for it.

One day, in the the not-too-distant-future, I hope that public art provokes, punctuates and elevates back home, inspiring questions and conversations.  The timing of being here, in the heart of beautiful Vancouver, could could not have been better for the professional journey that I have embarked upon with Arts Council Wood Buffalo.

I have seen the future, and the future is good.


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