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RANKED: Public Art in Downtown Saskatoon

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Celebrated for its scenic river valley, beautiful Meewasin trails, wealth of excellent restaurants, constant construction, and rambunctious panhandlers, the downtown core is undoubtedly the semiprecious stone in Saskatoon’s not-yet-sold-off crown. In recent years, downtown has become a prominent site for a surprising amount permanent and non-permanent public art, which here will be unsystematically ranked.  Note: Titles of art pieces will be provided for those which were not obviously displayed or we just simply didn’t notice. Note 2: Saskatoon’s downtown has a major imbalance in its male/female statue ratios. Hopefully this is noted in any of the city’s future art installation plans.

27. “PRAIRIE WIND”

artists: Jyhling Lee + Paul Koopman

This piece was commissioned by the City to be “a natural draw and an interesting feature that could be a focus for this area.” The winning proposal were these big, rigid, white telephone poles that are supposed to emulate “the experience of watching a field of tall grass swaying in the wind.”  If this looks like grass swaying in the wind, then my garage door opening looks like the blooming of a lily.

26. HUDSON’S WIND

artist: Unknown

Of course the younger, kooky sibling of Prairie Wind hangs out in front of Hudson’s. It gives the swaying-in-the-wind impression that Prairie Wind was trying to achieve, but with a decidedly  more inflatable tube man feel.

25. SO A ROCK WALKS INTO A BAR…

artist: Unknown

You can never go wrong with some big rocks mounted on other big rocks, but the structural bars impaling it from top to bottom are a bit of an eyesore. Beautiful rocks, though.

24. “SELF PORTRAIT”

artist: Patricia Shiplett

For reference, Patricia looks like this.

23. “SASKATOON COUGAR”

artist: Kevin Quinlan

This cat adds some much needed pizzazz near underpass at 19th Street and 1st Ave, preying over pedestrians and passing cars. A wildcat in the city is a bit random, though, but the rebar gives it a nice, blue collar Saskatchewan feel.

22. “THE RIGHT HONOURABLE RAMON JOHN HNATYSHYN”

artist: Bill Epp

A deserved immortalization, the late, Sask-born Ray Hnatyshyn served as governor general for five years, and is a Ukrainian-Canadian hero of the highest degree. The first of several Bill Epp pieces.

21. SHEAR EXCELLENCE 

artist: Unknown

One of the many hidden gems in the downtown region. Shear Excellence customers are greeted by two little characters constructed out of springs, hub caps, rebar, and other scrap metal. If judged by sheer cuteness, this would place first.

20. “FORGING THE FUTURE”

artist: Jim Jenson

This receding hairline’d blacksmith was installed to “recognize the black smith’s contribution to all the small communities in Saskatchewan” as well as raise awareness to proper rod pounding technique.

19. “EGG MONEY”

artist: Don + Shirley Begg

This endearing monument, commemorating the “courage, hardship, and perseverance” of Saskatchewan’s pioneer women”, wins the award for art piece most likely to cause crippling pain to the ankle and/or shins, with the pecking chickens posing a perfect threat to ruin your Farmer’s Market excursion.

18. “THE WINDS OF CHANGE ARE UPON US”

artist: Kent Pointon

“Made from Saskatchewan lumber”, Pointon’s piece has been relocated from the entrance to the Francis Morrison library to the backside of City Hall, aka tent-worm HQ.

17. “UNFURLED”

artist: Douglas Bentham

One of the largest and most visually striking art instalments in Saskatoon, Unfurled is part tree, part NYE party popper, depicting the “optimism inherit in thriving, growing community”

16. “RAINMAKER”

artist: Robert Murray

One of many abstract art pieces scattered around Saskatoon, and one of the oldest. Apparently “Rainmaker” is a bit controversial because Murray was commissioned in 1960 to create a fountain sculpture, and came up with this, ruffling the more pragmatic feathers at City Hall. Murray now lives in NYC and probably has forgotten that this thing exists.

15. VICTORA BRIDGE

artist: Queen Victoria

The largest art installation piece not only in Saskatoon, but in all of Canada. Rumour has it that this piece used to operate as a functional bridge, but this rumour is unconfirmed, and quite likely untrue. It is very striking though, and should it ever allow commuting, would make for a very useful additional to the city.

 

14. “VISIONARIES”

artist: Leslie Potter

Beauty that is only eclipsed by their immobility. Art that is able to withstand blows from the most violent Brad Wall slashes.

Although, not truck crashes.

13. “DENNY CARR”

artist: Hans Holtkamp

Often mistaken for Terry Fox, this statue is in fact Denny Carr – community volunteer, Order of Canada recipient, and radio host. Who knew. Whitney Graves, it’s only a matter of time.

12. ANNUAL HAM SUPPER

artist: Unknown

The most tantalizing photo of ham we’ve ever SEEN. This appears to be a temporary art display, so please, soak it up while it lasts.

11. “SOUL OF THE LAND”

artist: Edward Gibney

Gibney’s sculpture sets out to explore “developing spatial tension and implied forces with a block, bringing together stone carved by a man and stone carved by nature.” A lovely thing to look at while you’re carving your tongue into a double scoop ice cream cone at Bus Stop Refreshments priced $4.75

10. “PRIME MINISTER SIR WILFRID LAURIER AND MASTER JOHN DIEFENBAKER”

artist: Bill Epp

Little known fact: John Diefenbaker was Saskatoon’s first paperboy. This historic exchange displays the moment young JD met PM Laurier, who asked Dief if he could feel the material of his jacket. JD said “Sure, it’s synthetic microfibre and here’s a newspaper” and now most of Saskatoon is named after these men.

 

9. “LAUNCH TIME”

artists: Mel Bolen + Charley Farrero + Michael Hosaluk + Sean Whalley

Breaching canoes or pistachio shells? There are no answers to Launch Time . The artists say “perceptions change and curiosity builds as the viewers move around the piece.”

8. “DREAM MAKER”

artist: Floyd Wanner

Fossil-like and abstract and imposing and peculiar and ugly-elegant. Wanner wants you to chase your dreams so he made this so go chase your dreams or this thing will chase you.

7. “GANDHI”

artist: Ram Vanji Sutar

Yes, we know. Gandhi had so few trips to Saskatoon. Immortalizing him in Downtown Saskatoon a bit perplexing. But the Gandhi bust was actually a gift from the Government of India, as a gesture of non-violence as “a universal law acting under all circumstances.” Not a bad philosophy to display prominently, particularly in a city with a history of violence.

6. “GABRIEL DUMONT”

artist: Bill Epp

Gabe was a Metis leader of best known for his 1885 North-West Resistance as a key Metis military commander, noted for his selflessness, bravery, and elegance on horseback.

Yet another fine piece from Bill Epp, one of Saskatoon’s most prolific artists.

 

5. “SPIRIT OF THE ALLIANCE”

artists: Jean Sebastien Gauthier + Ian [Happy] Grove + Adrian A. Stimson

Public art is at it’s best when it captures something central to the history of the city and its people. “Spirit of the Alliance”, commissioned by these guys, “commemorates the contributions of the Dakota and other multicultural allies of the British Crown in the War of 1812, whose descendants now reside in Saskatchewan.” The art depicts Colonel Robert Dickson and Chief Wabasha exchanging gifts to symbolize the binding of these nations.

4. “JUMP”

artist: Brian Newman

Jump’s caption reads: “Poetry in motion in a simple Hop-Skip-Jump”. Debatably, Saskatoon’s best piece of abstract art. Somewhat like a deconstructed playground, it sort of encourages you to get weird with it; hurdle over a beam, chip your teeth.

3. “TRIBUTE TO YOUTH”

artist: Bill Epp

Epp’s masterpiece in Saskatoon. Any longtime Saskatoon resident has probably had some sort of physical interaction with this statue, be it climbing on it, falling off, or ducking inside for a photo. It’s that rare sort of art that invites you to be part of it rather than standing back to sedately observe. Quite appropriate to the spirit of youth.

2. “COMING SOON”

artist: Jason Gress

Humour goes a long way. Gress’ piece, deliberately a bit of an eyesore, with its stuck forklift and abandoned crates, is Saskatoon’s attempt at being self-deprecating. Gress said of his art piece “with public projects and development usually there is that kind of utopia before a shovel actually goes in the ground, there is that idea that everything is going to be great and better.” In Coming Soon, he’s poking fun at Saskatoon’s seemingly never ending state of “almost there!” in regards to our downtown projects and construction. The crates display all-too-familiar phrases like “NEW EXCITING DEVELOPMENT”, “VERY SOON”, “THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE”, and “WINTER IS COMING.”  Hats off to Saskatoon for having this sort of introspective sense of humour.

1. “THE FOUNDERS”

artist: Hans Holtkamp

The City got this one right. The Founders commemorates the foundation of our city, an important relationship in our culture, and a representation of mutual respect.  Depicted is the meeting between Saskatoon’s two founding fathers, Chief Whitecap and John Lake, where the two “discuss a potential site for the new settlement.” Unveiled nearly ten years ago, the piece continues to age well, growing feral shrubs around its perimeter. And the path leading up to it suggests, like all good art, its audience has some sort of relationship with it – in this case, probably in the form of lap sitting. The rest of this list can certainly be shaken into any order, but The Founders is the best piece of art in downtown Saskatoon.

Did we miss any? Do you take issue with the rankings? Do you like to hear whooshing sounds? Email: editor[at]burningbridges.ca