Water park enviro-art encourages hands-on fun
Play and learn with popular bridge 'toys'
By Chris Woodall
A bridge of art has instantly become a popular "bridge" between the environment and kids of all ages.
Artists Kip Jones and Jennifer Macklem put the finishing touches, June 7, on 18 of 20 moveable bronze sculptures that perch on the stainless steel railings of the water park — for now called Village Park — in Village North.
Running east to west between the BrewHouse and Plaza Galleries, the water park's art is meant to bring an immediate introduction to the environment to visitors and locals alike.
"We hope to bring people to a stronger visual connection to their environment," Macklem says.
The entire "performance art" set is called "Sightlines."
Turn the crank of one piece and by looking through slits in a drum, you
can make a Canada goose fly.
Look through the spyglass of another piece and get a good look at Blackcomb Mountain in the distance, or the stream bed at your feet.
Other pieces have a rolling marble in a maze, a multi-prismed lens giving viewers a bug's complex-eyed view of the world, while other bronze platforms display giant pollen spores or the skulls of area animals.
The sculptures — and the steps, stones and water course — are just part of an intricate urban park.
The final two pieces in the series will be added in August, but for now they are simply flat bronze plates.
Ideas for the pieces had a common theme, but specifics developed as the artists worked through the project, says Macklem. "As we made each piece, we were able to see the next piece."
The railing design also comes from the design imaginations of Macklem and Jones.
Jones and Macklem have about 30 years between them as professional artists. The Kelowna foundry that is their home base, called Pyramid Bronze Works, has been operating four years.
Pyramid won the contract after a municipal open call for submissions from artists in B.C. and the Northwest U.S. A jury selected the winning proposal, so it is something of a feather in the cap for Pyramid to get the nod.
It is a $30,000 nod, but in terms of public art the amount is a deal, Macklem says. "Public art projects are usually in the $200,000 range, so $30,000 is a tiny budget."
That means the artists absorbed a lot of the costs to create the sculptures that included coming up with the elaborate designs a year ago before pouring molten metal, beginning at Christmas.
"This will be a bit of a portfolio builder," Macklem says of Sightlines.
Even as they put the finishing touches on the sculpture pieces last Sunday, passers-by were drawn to the works. The attraction has been non-stop since then as adults allow the child in them to emerge long enough to peep through a spyglass or spin a disc emulating the solar system.
"It's really satisfying," Macklem says of the instant success of her work.
Work at the Village Park section is nearing completion.
The water course has been laid out and paving stones in swirling designs have been set in place.
Tuesday, June 9, saw stone masons arrive to finish off steps that lead down to the watercourse's edge. Landscapers also arrived with a truckload of shrubberies to be planted in the dark loamy soil.
Another planting and irrigation tender closed Wednesday, June 10, for completion in early July.
There are fountains, too.
Two smaller fountains at the Canski end of the park and one large fountain between the BrewHouse and The Plaza Galleries will be plumbed this month.
The fountains won't be spouting geysers, but are stone-faced raised basins with water bubbling up through a bed of river rock and large stones.
Water will be running down the course between an irregular "stream bed" of basalt columns by early autumn — "before the snow flies," says Jan Jansen, municipal manager of parks planning who is overseeing this project.
The water — siphoned from Fitzsimmons Creek — has many places to go before it slips back into the main body of the creek further north.
When it passes through Village Park, it flows under the Main Street bridge and through another section of park behind Whistler's museum and library buildings to Northlands Boulevard.
This section has recently undergone a major change.
Originally to look similar to Village Park's urban layout of small pools and standing stones, this as-yet unbuilt park will be left pretty much alone, Jansen says.
There are a number of large trees in this area and the stumps of arboreal giants long gone. This will now be preserved, recognizing that Whistler's hasty development has resulted in most of its natural green space disappearing under bulldozers, Jansen says.
Water from Village Park will be allowed to form a pool where it emerges from the Main Street bridge on the forested side, then be funnelled into a culvert carrying the water to Northlands Boulevard where it can form another pool on the west side of that road.
A walking path will follow the direction of the culvert, but the "forest" will be left alone as much as possible, Jansen says.
"We don't want to interfere with the trees," Jansen says. "We're working on the engineering contract right now to cover over the culvert."
The culvert proposal will cost a lot less to create than the original more complicated design, although details of the cost difference won't be known for another week or so, say municipal staff.
West of Northlands Boulevard, the water course bends north along the street towards Lorimer Road.
Earth moving to define the channel has been proceeding this past week.
Once the water reaches Lorimer Road, it's supposed to follow other channels leading around the Whistler Racquet & Golf Resort's north side before finally returning to Fitzsimmons Creek.