Artist commissioned to create public art for city recreation locations brings an impressive background to the task.

artsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

August 1st, 2017



With the selection decision made Ken Hall now has to move into production mode and begin the process of creating large aluminum based ribbons that will be painted a bright red metallic paint that will go up on three of the city’s sports and recreation locations: Mainway Arena, Brant Hills and the Nelson Recreation centre.

During the selection process the public didn’t get to see much of work Ken Hall had done elsewhere. Shown were conceptual drawings that were a hint at what was being suggested.


Rendering of the aluminum ribbon Ken Hall has been commissioned to install on the Brant Hills recreation centre, Similar ribbons will be placed on two other recreation locations.

Once the public had been given an opportunity to voice their views on  a selection of artists who made the short list, the task of refining the concept, ironing out some of the wrinkles and getting a production schedule in place became the focus.

One shift was that none of the art was going to be on the ground. All the ribbons will be attached to the building. There was a concern that something on the ground could be mutilated by vandals. They will not be illuminated which is unfortunate – they would look rather stunning in the evenings if they were lit up. Not enough money in the budget for that feature.

Hall has done public art for Cambridge and Georgetown, Ontario and has an interesting piece of work being created for Waterloo.

The work he is best known for is his Legacy, a piece of sculpture that was named Hope by children who lived in the community where the whale the sculpture is based on was washed ashore.

In 2002, the body of a female killer whale was found stranded on the North Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Just offshore, a healthy young male hovered close by, refusing gentle attempts to guide him into deeper water.

Although the orphaned male orca was saved, it was soon learned that the female’s body carried one of the most toxic loads of chemicals ever recorded in a marine mammal. She had the highest levels of PCBs and DDT ever found in an orca.

“Hope’s story” explained Hall “inspired me to create an installation that would illustrate the fragility of our ecosystems, and highlight the cost of ignoring our impact on our environment.”

Hall - Killer whale

Ken Hall’s Legacy currently on display at the Ontario Science Centre.

Legacy, the name given to the piece of work, is a life-sized, anatomically correct orca skeleton that has been hand-carved from recycled cedar, meticulously following scans of Hope’s skeleton taken during her necropsy.

The cedar was donated to Hall by the people of the Pine River Valley around the Orangeville part of the province where he lives and created the sculpture that is currently on display at the Ontario Science centre. More than three million people have viewed this piece of work.

The art work was built so that it could be taken apart and shipped to the different locations.

Dr. Peter Ross, Director of Ocean Pollution Research Program, Vancouver Aquarium said “Ken’s ‎spectacular reclaimed cedar killer whale skeleton provides a poignant opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to share critically important stories about ocean conservation.

“Highlighting the plight of one of the most iconic creatures on the planet, this evocative piece of art has the potential to connect people to their environment.”

Hall studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, did a couple of years’ studies and co-op work placements but didn’t earn a degree. He switched to Fine Arts before graduating.

His mechanical engineering studies ave him the background that he now uses for his installation art.

The original assembly work was done at the Dufferin County Museum where the staff were not completely sure what it was that Ken Hall wanted to say with the sculpture.

Hall with whalesculpture

Each of the 46 vertebrae were crafted by Ken Hall -(shown) from re-cycled cedar.

Once 11 of the 46 vertebrae were carved, Hall realized just how big of a project this would be—it took him six months of full-time fabrication to make all the pieces (there are over 200 bones that make up the sculpture).

The sculpture was completed and put on display at the Dufferin County Museum & Archives in Ontario. Sometimes accompanied by projection lights that provide a water-like effect and orca vocalizations playing in the background, the finished piece gives visitors a feeling of being underwater.

That feeling is what Hall wanted to provide people walking through the exhibit—one that highlights our connections as humans to the Earth and our ecosystems, like Hope and her community in the Pacific.

Which brings us back to the Ken Hall aluminium ribbons that will adorn three sports/recreational structures in the city.

The installation artist brings a rich history to the task. Something to keep in mind when you look at those ribbons when they go up later this year.

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