In a news release, London, Ont., mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best called it a sculpture that “will indeed become a key component of our downtown revitalization.”
That may be a bit of a stretch. But the prospect of a 500-kilogram great blue heron, made of steel and suspended from the upscale Renaissance Tower above special masonry below, bears all the marks of a very successful public-private partnership. Think London’s Via Rail station or the central branch of the London Public Library, except that this project will be much more about art than function.
At a news conference this afternoon in the lobby of the newly built tower immediately south of the John Labatt Centre, artist Ted Goodden unveiled a small model of his sculpture and spoke eloquently of the images he hopes it will evoke. The steel bird will “gesture” toward the forks of what the region’s First Nations called the Antler River — the waterway European settlers later called the Thames. For both aboriginals and Europeans, the river was the locus of community life and commercial activity. The great blue heron was, and still is, a common sight. In crafting his sculpture, Goodden envisioned the heron ascending toward King Street from a resting place on the river.
Goodden’s three-by-five-metre heron, when installed, will also function as a kind of seasonal timepiece, its left wing outfitted with a sundial-type orb that will track the sun’s movement and register the summer solstice and points of semiannual equinox on the brickwork at street level.
Goodden’s installation will mark the end of a competition that included more than a dozen entries from across Canada. The juried selection process was led by the London Arts Council. The project is worth $100,000. Tricar Group, owner of Renaissance Tower, was granted a higher residential density during the project’s development in exchange for a contribution in the form of public art, guided by the city’s public art policy, which was adopted in January.