Community Sculpture Selection underway for Billings Art and Heritage Trail

Billings residents peruse the sculpture suggestions that have made it through to the next round.

by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG—With Canada 150 celebrations taking place next July, 4elements Living Arts Director Sophie Edwards and Program Co-ordinator Patricia Mader have introduced a Billings Art and Heritage Trail which will include a series of sculptures, 11 in total along with 40 plaques to be erected throughout the township of Billings.

Three of the 11 sculptures are already in place along the Bridal Veil Falls hiking trail; installation took place in 2015: Michael Belmore’s fish and turtle boulders have added to the landscape of the river trails and attracted and impressed residents and visitors alike.

Seven of the remaining 11 will be chosen by a jury made up of artists and non-artists from the community plus representation from community partners from the museum board, recreation committee, economic development, council, and 4elements Living Arts.

Some members of the jury include Anong Beam, Sharon Alkenbrack, Susan Snelling, Kathy McDonald, Louis Couillard and Charlene Chambers.

The final sculpture will be created by a member of the community following a call out process. We felt it was very important “to engage people from the community; to be a part of the project by designing one of the sculptures that will be in the place they call home,” said Ms. Edwards.

Ms. Edwards stated they received 110 requests for application from artists all across Canada to be considered for the seven available spots. The criteria for the sculpture included relationship to the land, environment, history and reconciliation. Some submissions were constructed from bronze or wood and varied in size and scale. “They are all very different,” she stated.

Forty-two applications were received and interviews held via Skype. From those 42, the jury cut the number in half to 21 following a day long process held Saturday, October 28. On Wednesday, November 2 members of the community were invited to pick their top seven from the 21. A second deliberation was held Saturday, November 5.

Among the 21 were local artists including Kurtis Aelick, Madonna Aeschlimann, Kathryn Corbiere and Marcus Mohr.

As part of this legacy project, each of the 11 sculptures will be permanent and become an asset to and responsibility of the Township of Billings.

Ms. Edwards, who is co-curator along with Ms. Mader, shared that the artists had to be mindful of the criteria for their submissions which included its viability, theme, how long it would last, influence on people and how it relates to art, land and First Nations.

Beginning the process now “will engage the community over the year leading up to Canada 150. We (at 4elements Living Arts) want an opportunity to do something we would not normally do; this is not from taxpayers’ pockets,” said Ms. Edwards.

The Canada 150 project has allowed us to take more risks and challenge the way we think about art, she added.

“It has been very exciting,” stated Ms. Edwards. “There has been lots of interest from the public and choosing from the submissions has been a really tough decision.”