The art will generate conversation and draw new people to the area

Alberta Avenue is the new, temporary home to three art installations and will soon be welcoming another. 

Residents may have noticed two giant beans (Love Your Bean) in the grassy space by the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and the crouched figure sculptures (The Meeting) at the corner of 118 Avenue and 91 Street. In early November, Walking Figures was installed in front of the Telus building on 118 Avenue and 89 Street. Soon, a large neon sign with the words “let’s heal the divide” will grace the east-facing side of the ArtsHub building. 

Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Ave (AOTA), says displaying public art is not only good for generating conversation and building community, it’s also a way to draw people to the neighbourhood, creating an artistic destination. 

All the artwork comes from a partnership with Vancouver Biennale, a non-profit organization exhibiting public art to generate conversation, engagement, education, and social action. The sign is a donation from Vancouver Biennale and is a partnership between AOTA, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, and ArtsHub 118.

AOTA partnered with Vancouver Biennale, Avatex, CN Rail, Kor Alta Construction, Edmonton Community Foundation, City of Edmonton, The Works, and the Avenue Initiative. All the partners played a key role.

“CN Rail transported all the sculptures at no charge,” says Morin. 

Italian-Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro created the giant red and yellow beans, part of a larger collection. Says Morin, “The beans are about whimsy and fun.” 

The Meeting is eight crouching sculptures painted red. Sculpted by Chinese artist Wang Shugang, The Meeting was first exhibited at the 2007 G-8 summit meeting in Germany. While most of the figures are arranged in a circle and displayed on the vacant lot at 118 Avenue and 91 Street, one is deliberately set apart from the others in front of the community league building across the street. In fact, Barrie Mowatt, founder and president of Vancouver Biennale, travelled to Edmonton to help with the placement.

The Meeting represents a socio discussion. “Are they ready to jump up? Is the one on the league lawn outside watching? Is he supposed to be observing or ready to jump into the meeting?”

Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz sculpted Walking Figures. Now deceased, Abakanowicz  was “a survivor and creative artist who started from nothing.” She survived the Second World War and created the sculptures, also part of a larger collection, in her studio. 

“They’re made from cast iron and represent the commonness of man,” explains Morin. “It’s how we work in a collective and yet maintain individuality. There’s a patina; they’ve all gone through life. Who are those people? Where are they going? What’s their story?”

Installed on Telus land, Telus gave permission to use the space for Walking Figures, and Kor Alta Construction helped to excavate and secure the land for the installation.

Let’s Heal the Divide is created by Toni Latour, a queer feminist East Vancouver artist. It’s meant to “bring healing, conversation, and restoration.” The sign may prompt people to ask, “what needs healing?” It will be mounted on the vibrant green wall of the ArtsHub building, possibly before the new year. 

“They’re all transitory public art,” says Morin, “People have a conversation about it, then we return it. They’re loaning them to us for free for up to two years. They commission internationally-known artists. We’re so blessed to have them. It’s something we’ve never imagined.”

People are welcome to take pictures of the installations. Morin adds, “We ask that people don’t climb them—we don’t want anyone to fall.”

Featured Image: IMG 1: Workers prepare to secure the Walking Figures art installation. | Gabrielle deGouw