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Artist shares vision for Multiplex art

The first of three finalists in the running to design a public art installation for the $39 million Canmore Multiplex shared his vision for public art and some ideas of where he may go with his design. Barrie, Ont.

The first of three finalists in the running to design a public art installation for the $39 million Canmore Multiplex shared his vision for public art and some ideas of where he may go with his design.

Barrie, Ont. artist Ted Fullerton was the first of three Canadian artists shortlisted by the Community Public Art Committee for the $100,000 commission to participate in a four-day residency and public presentation designed to familiarize the artists to the community and vice versa.

The competition was open to local and national invited artists to create an outdoor art piece that will be located in the Multiplex main plaza located between the Alberta Provincial Building and the south end of Railway Avenue.

Ted Fullerton, known for his sculptures of human figures in bronze, said during his presentation in the Public Art Works Speaker Series, Thursday (Aug. 25), that the first task of any artist engaged in public art is to understand the residents and stakeholders in the community and the landscape.

“And yet at the same time, your work has to have integrity, it has to have accepted value and it has to have intelligence and with that, it will truly benefit the community without question,” Fullerton said. “That is the methodology I follow when I set out to design a public work.”

The remaining two finalists, B.C. artist Doug Taylor, whose kinetic instillations focus on wind, water and solar powered features, and Peter Powning of New Brunswick, who works in cast bronze, glass, stone, ceramics and steel will share their ideas at the Civic Centre, Wednesday, Sept. 7 and Monday, Sept. 19, respectively, at 7 p.m.

Following those two sessions, a third presentation will be held at the Civic Centre, Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. as part of Alberta Arts Days with Canmore artists, including sculptor Tony Bloom, who will share their public art work while providing an opportunity for residents to learn more about public art.

Fullerton said he found inspiration in a number of elements in Canmore, including the landscape, athleticism in the community and the story of Chinese cook Ha Ling who climbed the peak that bears his name.

All of it, he said, was leading him to the ideas of ‘ascend’ and ‘transcend’.

“Those words seem to be coming to mind and I believe will become a foundation of where I will be going with this.”

As an artist who creates public art, Fullerton said he has to understand a number of factors about the Multiplex design.

“You need to understand the entire context,” he said, adding that includes materials, structural integrity, public safety, risk of vandalism, lighting, cost, timelines and maintenance.

“It is important to have a piece that is low maintenance. You want something that has longevity,” he said.

And he said to expect that the final piece – no matter what it may be – chosen by the CPAC jury will draw resistance from part of the community.

“Whenever public art goes into the public realm there will be people who resist that because they don’t understand how it fits into public life,” Fullerton said.

However, if an artist stays true to their philosophical or ideological approach, while considering the community, Fullerton said the result can be a piece of art that becomes part of the community’s identity.

“What I find really interesting is studio work moved into a public space becomes a signature for the place itself,” he said. “It becomes an identity to place and that identity expands out into the community with a sense of ownership and pride.”

As well, he advised the group gathered at the Civic Centre for his presentation, it is important to remember it is not necessary for everyone to understand the piece.

“The reality is, you never know what it is. It is not intended to be understood. What is intended is for it to be experienced and that experience is interpreted based on your own experience, your own sensibility, your own insights; so it is a very private and personal experience,” Fullerton said.

“This notion of trying to understand what it means should be dispelled. That is not the purpose of art. If it is understood, it is weak work.”

The winning public art design will be chosen by jury.


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