Open House Wednesday for Oshawa’s Downtown Urban Square art installation

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Published June 7, 2024 at 5:20 pm

Simcoe and Bond

Oshawa wants to know what the public wants to see in a planned public art piece coming to the city’s future Downtown Urban Square.

The public is invited to an Open House Wednesday evening at the Arts Resources Centre adjacent to City Hall to provide feedback on the project.

Project design is already underway on the ‘Square,’ which is located at one of city’s two four corners at the north-east corner of Simcoe and Bond streets.

A parking lot for many years, Oshawa expropriated the site in the summer of 2022. The property is part of the Plan20Thirty downtown revitalization project and the City hopes the Urban Square will be a unique focal point of downtown, hosting community celebrations, events and concerts that appeal to both residents and visitors, bringing “vitality and excitement” into the downtown core.

First item on the agenda is the public art piece, the City’s first independent sculpture commission, signifying a “significant step” toward enhancing the creative fabric of the downtown. The artwork is being commissioned as part of the city’s centennial celebrations with a budget of $145,000, including artist fees, engineering, materials and installation.

Three artists have been shortlisted for the project, though the artists – Brandon Vickery, Nicholas Crombach and an artist group made up Simon Frank, Gary Barwin and Tor Lukasik-Foss – won’t be in attendance Wednesday as the City team wants a bit more feedback from residents on what they want in the space first.

“We’ve pivoted a bit because we want to hear from the public on what they want to see,” said Oshawa Economic Development Director Hailey Wright. “We’re still working through the process but more community feedback is needed.”

One of the whimsical sculptures that make up Brandon Vickerd’s ‘Wilds of Kingston’ sculptures in downtown Kingston

During the Open House, residents and business owners will have the opportunity to learn more about the Oshawa’s Public Art Master Plan and provide input to the Downtown Oshawa Urban Square public artwork.

The Urban Square and its artwork reflect Oshawa’s “commitment and desire” to connect and engage with the community, as well as transform public spaces into vibrant and inviting places. The project is being commissioned as part of the city’s centennial celebrations.

All three short-listed artists bring plenty of experience in large scale art projects.

Vickerd, a sculptor whose site-specific interventions, public performances and object-based sculptures act as a catalyst for critical thought and engagement with the physical world, won a public art installation commission in Kingston in 2021, with his “dynamic and playful” sculptures The Wilds of Kingston gracing a prominent downtown intersection.

Vickerd, who is a Professor of Sculpture at York University, where he chairs the Visual Art and Art History department, has presented his work across Canada in Ottawa, Calgary, Thunder Bay, Edmonton and Hamilton.

Crombach is an artist working in Kingston who is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Award. He has presented solo exhibitions in Canada, London, and Berlin.

Barwin, Frank and Lukasik-Foss were commissioned to create Belongings, a series of ten bronze-cast suitcases situated in different locations along the length of a recently re-configured pedestrian pathway in Hamilton’s Churchill Park.

The suitcases revealed narrative or symbolic references to travel, escape, refuge, emigration, as well as a subtle acknowledgement to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish architect who assisted thousands of Jews to escape Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II.

The commission was valued at $200,000 and was installed in late 2019.

A public jury will be reviewing the proposals before recommending the winning artwork.

Oshawa is also working with Mary Krohnert and the LivingRoom Community Art Studio to create a community-based art project – a mixed media felted paper quilt that will be displayed at the Delpark Homes Centre – and with Indigenous artists on a permanent public art piece at the Ed Broadbent Waterfront Park.

The Open House will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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