Orchids on the move? Was the “lesson learned” turned into an advantage that might satisfy everyone?

By Pepper Parr


February 24, 2012  It is always very unwise to let politicians anywhere near the selection of public art.

Burlington made a wise decision a number of years ago when they selected the Imperial Cotton Centre for the  Arts as their third party public art advisers.

The placing of public art in the city has raised a lot of negative comment. Most people don't understand why the sculpture, a modernistic interpretation of orchids was installed in the middle of a busy road. There is a solution to this problem.

The first major project they took on was described at a recent Council Committee as a “lesson learned” – which had to do with the ‘orchids’ that now decorate a stretch of Upper Middle Road located just before the street dips beneath the railway tracks – which gives the average driver doing the speed limit all of 1.2 seconds to actually see the art.

While “provincial”  Burlington was convinced someone locally could have done a much better job for a lot less than the $100,000. the city paid for the three orchids, I think they had some local welder who thought he was an artist in mind.   The orchards are good art done by someone with an international reputation.

City Council last week had a major problem with paying as much as $35,000 for individual bus shelters that would adorn the entrance to the up and coming Alton community.  There was some hope that there would be some sculpture in front of the high school being built in the Alton community, but no one could agree on anything so they settled for fancy bus shelters.  Councillor Taylor couldn’t stomach that one and managed to convince his council members to put the kybosh  on that one and they did – almost.  Councillor Lancaster convinced them to defer rather than say a total no and asked staff to look into providing information on fancy bus shelters  more appropriate to the Canadian climate.  The examples given didn`t look as if they offered much protection on a cold winter day.  As soon as we get the pictures from the city hall staff member we will show those to you.

With the orchids on Upper Middle Road now a fact and with negative public comment still growing all admitted that the orchids were perhaps not the arts’ greatest moment in Burlington.

While the bus shelters got the boot,  art for the plaza in front of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre got serious attention.  Dan Laurie, a local insurance broker,  offered to put up a sum of money providing the city matched his amount on a two for one basis for something that would be installed on the plaza in front of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Additional donours have come forward and offered funds on the same basis.

Council wasn’t sure they wanted to have the city stuck with a situation where they had to put up two dollars for every one that someone decided to donate so they seemed to take a pass on that opportunity.

Our Burlington is a cogent observer of all things civic at city hall and there is a very, very simple solution to both getting acceptable art in front of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre and stifling the howls about the art on Upper Middle Road.

This is not a true photograph but rather two pictures superimposed on each other - to give you an idea what the orchids would look like if they were installed on the plaza outside the Performing Arts Centre. The council members and city staff in the picture would not be part of the installation.

Move the orchids from Upper Middle Road to the plaza in front of the Performing Arts Centre. Whizzo! – everyone is happy.  To give you an idea as to just how magnificent those orchids would look in front of the Performing Arts Centre, we Photoshopped the Orchards into a picture of the Performing Arts Centre so you could see just how fine this would look.

In the “art” work we did, we included the Mayor, several Council members and some senior City Hall staff.  One might give some thought to having those people pose during specific events during the year – the public could buy peanuts to feed them with the profits from the peanuts going to offset the $500,000 the Performing Arts Centre is going to cost in the way of their annual subsidy.

There won’t be any problem moving the orchids.  Some people think they are in Jack Dennison’s Ward 4 but  he claims they are in Blair Lancaster’s Ward 6 – they are both right – the thing is in the middle of the road on a small floral island and they really aren’t in either ward, much to the relief of Dennison who doesn’t ever want to be touched with anything to do with the arts.  Jack just wants to pave those roads.


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.