Some pieces of public art go unnoticed except by a few sharp-eyed people who are looking for what is different or unique about a place. The value of a public art installation, whether it is stationary or mobile, permanent or short-lived, historically significant or of-the- moment, reflects the character of a place and is hard to quantify in terms of economic value. Culturally or socially it may hold much greater value than a dollar sign would imply. These things help to tie a community together and foster a sense of identity.
One way public art can create value is when an audience watches or even participates in it being made. This has happened each May since 2014 at Kaslo’s MayDays Logger Sports arena, where celebrity chainsaw carver Ryan Cook has worked/performed with enthusiastic audiences. His first work, in 2014, was Kaslo’s Protectors, a pair of ospreys perched atop a pedestal with a tree spirit carved in the post, appropriate to our area and now located downtown, on Water Street, on the edge of Kootenay Lake. In addition to entertaining and educating audiences while being carved, Kaslo’s Protectors now enriches visitors’ visual experience as they explore the village. Cook’s work gains value from being donated to the village by LoggerSports, associated with Kaslo’s tradition of forestry: not the first sector you think of when public art is considered, but a significant part of what makes up the culture of Kaslo and area.
Does public art always have to be serious? Heck no. Sometimes, what becomes endearing and enduring about a piece of artwork, what makes it part of the community, is unexpected additions…
The ospreys of Kaslo’s Protectors have shown an astounding ability to keep track of holidays and special events! They have appeared dressed up for Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, May Days, and most recently, on Labour Day in acknowledgement of workers around the globe and specifically Kaslo’s Village Crew.
Mostly, public art is found in larger centres with bigger populations and a larger tax base to support such things. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be found elsewhere and help to support smaller centres as well as adding to the character of a small town. Revelstoke, BC, just a few hours up the winding road from Kaslo, features a magnificent sculpture of a grizzly bear mother and cub at the entrance to the town. Since its installation, hundreds upon hundreds of visitors to Revelstoke have stopped to have their photos taken beside it, and by so doing have created lasting memories for people far beyond those of Revelstoke. It is one more feature the town has to offer its visitors to stay, explore, and perhaps return in future.
Bears, Revelstoke, BC. Photo courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMBQHC_Female_Grizzly_and_Cub_Revelstoke_British_Columbia