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“Niagara Strait” Public Art Installation at Botanical Gardens

May 10, 2019

Niagara Parks

Yesterday we celebrated the installation of “Niagara Strait.” A new, major public art installation at our Botanical Gardens. This sculpture was the winning design selected from an open call that was part of Niagara Parks’ Ontario 150 celebrations in 2017.

In 2017 Niagara Parks joined the rest of the country in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canada and the Province of Ontario. We introduced new exhibits and programming, showcasing our important work as the environmental and cultural stewards of the Niagara River corridor. Some of these projects included:

  • The new Pollinator exhibit at the Butterfly Conservatory
  • The redesigned Niagara Glen Nature Centre and its Nature Exchange programming
  • Establishing a Pollinator Garden Route that will take visitors from this location all the way to Old Fort Erie.

Yesterday we gathered to officially celebrate another key component of this programming – the unveiling of this magnificent new sculpture on the grounds of our Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.

This incredible sculpture – “Niagara Strait” – was envisioned and brought to life by Niagara-based artist Gordon M. Reeve. An experienced artist, having produced many renowned site-specific sculptures commissioned during his thirty-seven years as a Professor of Sculpture at the University of Manitoba, Gordon’s works are known for being ecologically responsible and for their ability to stand the test of time both in their design and the durability of the materials used.

This project saw Gordon collaborating with local partners, landscape architects, as well as structural and mechanical engineers. Those companies that worked on this impressive installation include Temec (Tea-Mac) Engineering, Wood Engineering Group, Hodgson Custom Rolling Inc., Ecco Electric, and Gauboc (Go-Bock) Construction. As a financially self-sustaining agency of the province of Ontario, this project is a great example of how public art positively impacts our local community, not just culturally, but also socially and economically.

Gordon’s design creates a dramatic sense of entry into the beautiful grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. This sculpture will play a role in enriching both the identity of the gardens and how visitors connect with this special place, while also paying tribute to Niagara’s geological roots and our cultural heritage.

For the artist’s description of the work, and his bio, see below:

Niagara Strait

Green places like the Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory allow us to wander, to wonder and to find sustenance for the spirit. Just as the Niagara River is a strait, a passage between two lakes, this sculpture will be a passage between two places, the world in which we live and the rare environs of the Garden and Conservatory we are about to enter. The rippling steel walls will invite the touch of the viewer passing through. Looking upward one will see irregular, sloping walls, silhouetted against the sky. Direct and reflected light will fill the space. The curving sculpture itself will be an elegant gesture toward the Conservatory and a few steps beyond, the Garden. Glancing back through the “looking glass” of the walls there will be a sense of having left another place and another time. In this way time within the garden’s precincts may become just a bit more precious.

All of my sculptures are site-specific and my process starts on site in search of an indefinable but discernible essence or spirit, its genius loci. The goal is to create a work that responds or belongs to its site the way a tree belongs to the place it grows. The inspiration for this piece came from the hidden beauty of the Niagara Gorge just a few hundred meters from here across the Parkway. The burnished steel walls of the sculpture reference both the towering cliffs and the gigantic boulders, broken and strewn about the floor of the Gorge.

The path down into the gorge is alive for it too is a garden of sorts with hundreds of species of plants. It leads in myriad directions and, just as in our everyday life we must choose which path to follow as our muddy footprints quickly disappear behind us. In places, the towering walls speak of time even before this continent existed. The monumental water-worn rocks are breathtakingly tangible evidence of the immeasurable power of the river over countless years. My hope is that the sculpture will stimulate thoughts of the gorge, a place beyond time, against the backdrop of the living gardens and conservatory where time is measured in seasons, and lifecycles are measured in years, weeks and even within the hours of a single, sunny afternoon.

The sculpture surfaces will be smooth as if worn by the passage of water. Yet they will be scarred and deformed by irregularities and striations, evidence of the immense forces used to work the steel and create the sculpture. As massive as the sculptures are they also appear in some views to be comparatively thin, a duality I hope to explore that may make one mindful of the curving petals of a poppy or the feathering of a parrot tulip.

Artist Bio Gordon M. Reeve
In addition to site-specific sculpture commissions completed during thirty-seven years as Professor of Sculpture at the University of Manitoba Gordon Reeve created more than twenty annual performance/ritual sculptures in agricultural research fields for fifty costumed participants and hundreds of viewers, designed two sets for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and produced/directed and wrote a large number of award-winning, internationally researched and distributed films on art, architecture and performance. He has collaborated in engineering research and worked with landscape architects, structural and mechanical engineers. His works push the limits of fabrication technology and are ecologically responsible. Among these are earthworks, bronze and concrete waterfalls, buoyancy as passive energy, satellite interface solar-powered lighting, suspending 40’ long (3000 lb.) curved steel arms from single pivot points, and wind-activated and solar-powered radiant heating of sculpture. His preferred material for public sculpture is almost always 316L stainless steel. This guarantees that his sculptures are nearly maintenance free and vandal-proof, use exclusively 60% recycled and 100% recyclable materials. Every public sculpture he has completed since 1974 remains in its original location in excellent repair. The single act of graffiti (2015) to one sculpture was easily cleaned. His work satisfies all international structural engineering standards and he always meets contract deadlines and budgets. In addition to this project he is currently working on a sculpture, The Coming Spring, for the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Central Urban Metis Federation, the City of Saskatoon and Canada 150. Completion, spring 2018. Born Chatham, Ontario Currently resident in Niagara Region

Niagara Parks

Niagara Parks

The Niagara Parks Commission is committed to a vision of Ontario’s Niagara Parks as one that Preserves a rich heritage, Conserves natural wonders, and Inspires people world-wide. Founded in 1885, The Niagara Parks Commission is an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Its mission is to protect the natural and cultural heritage along the Niagara River for the enjoyment of visitors while maintaining financial self-sufficiency.