Public Art

…ultimately everything, nature and culture as well, and thus [humans] and [their] habitat, are connected in an infinite, diverse systems of relationships.

Edgar Morin, Sustainability Theorist

The potential for public artworks within the overall Elbow Island Park project is multifold. There is a possibility to impact both the infrastructure of the island, and its social/conceptual function within the city over time. As Lead Artists, it’s our intention to facilitate art for birds, bats, beaver, fish, and the occasional curious wanderer.

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The rickety stairway leading down into the park was originally identified as a site that could benefit from the attentions of public art and design, but subsequently the entire island has become a potential site for artworks.

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The stairs leading down to the island will be widened and renovated to become a sculptural entry-point. Broadened trails will guide wanderers to artistic stepping stones creating a rock ford over a secondary channel, allowing passage to the remarkably wild, inner-island bushland.

Above: site of our intended rock ford crossing, during Summer and Winter site walks


On the pathway encircling the island, 3 benches designed and built by artist teams will offer space to sit and reflect on the journey while watching the river.

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Throughout this project, there is an opportunity to increase safety and usability within the green space. It is not necessarily the intention of this project to increase the quantity of people moving through the park. Rather, this project is intended to address the quality of interaction between people, Elbow Island Park, and the surrounding environment as a holistic, complex entity. The objective is to maintain the inner-city ‘wildness’ of the island and create a better experience for all people, without negatively impacting the habitat or dramatically increasing foot traffic.

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Pending the lift of a freeze on Public Art spending by City Council, we hope to open the space to a broader community of artists than most Public Art is able to accomodate. Ideally, 1-3 artists per season will create seasonal programming from Autumn 2019 to Winter 2021 on Elbow Island. Artists will be selected by a jury through a Call for Submissions in 2019 (interested artists should stay tuned to this blog for details TBA).

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A site-visit with artists currently designing benches for the Island

The artists will interact with the space through a variety of disciplines, drawing materials primarily from the island itself, responding to Elbow Island as a biological, social, spatial, mythical, historical, cultural, and conceptual context. Some of the long-term temporary artworks will remain on the island for many years, decaying slowly.

Participating artists are challenged to be conscious of their impact on the surrounding ecosystem, bringing as little outside material as possible to the site. The experimental nature of this process necessitates a light footprint, innovative approach, and thoughtful documentation. A filmmaker, a photographer, and two writers will document The Wandering Island across the seasons.

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Elbow Island Park is rich with content for artist participants to explore. On a social level, there is a possibility of addressing tensions between the current occupants of the park (the homeless) and surrounding neighbours – especially because the land currently occupied by the Tent City will be excavated for fish habitat and flooded by the river.

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On a biological level, there is a wealth of data to respond to about various flora and fauna flourishing in the space despite urban adversity. From a cultural perspective, the Elbow River is rife with significance – both historical and current – and conducive to contemporary conversations about the psychogeography of our particular time and place. Building a program of ‘slow art’ for Elbow Island is a natural and enticing possibility.

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Copyright Statement - Wandering Island

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