Stela is at her new place now – visitors are welcome to drop by and see how she looks.

August 25, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.   It was expected to be a pretty simple task.  Get the Spiral Stela from the shipping yard it was stored in down to the Performing Arts Centre and erect it.

The time had come for Burlington’s Spiral Stela to be moved to its final home – outside the Performing Arts Centre.

It wasn’t a mammoth structure.  The crane would handle it easily and there was nothing complex about the task.  Get it upright and lower it onto the four large bolts that had been installed, tighten up the bolts – and it`s done.  Right?

If you remember the installation of the Orchids in November of 2011 on Upper Middle Road you’ll understand that Burlington and art are not quite in total, smooth sync – yet.

The Spiral Stela, getting ready to stand up and be locked into place – ready for the public to see for the next 100 years.

Getting the piece of art off the truck and onto the plaza outside the Centre was the easy part.  The crane operator and the artist worked together and eased it to the ground.

The base of the Stela is a ¾ plate of stainless steel with four holes drilled.   There is an additional plate of steel that is thinner attached to the top of the base plate.  It too had holes drilled into it.

A member of the installation team took a long steel rod and pushed it through the holes in the steel plates to ensure that nothing would block the bolts as the Stela was lowered into the base.

What do you mean the holes don’t line up? The bolts on the base plate in the foreground are supposed to slide into the holes on the structures base plate. They didn’t. Oops

Oops – the rod did not go in – something was blocking the rod.  Shades of the Orchids installation on Upper Middle Road when the installation team there discovered that the size of the bolts and the holes they were to slip into were not the same and a mobile crew with some very heavy-duty equipment was called in on very short notice to solve that problem.

Burlington was facing the same problem with the Stela: this time the inner plate had holes that were just a little smaller than the holes on the outer plate.

Jeremy Freiburger works his cell phone – there has to be someone out there he can reach to solve this problem. How did this happen he wonders?

It’s 7:00 am and it isn’t easy to find technical people at that hour – no one is at their shops yet.  Jeremy Freiburger, the city’s public art program management contractor began t work his telephone list.

Off went one of the technical team to get a drill bit that would widen the holes.  That didn’t work.  Freiburger continues to madly work his cell phone – chasing down the people he needs to reach  The plan was to have the Stela installed and veiled before the public was up and around.

The Stela was not to be seen by the public until it was officially unveiled on the Sunday afternoon..

More urgent phone calls.  The technical team made another trip into Hamilton and came back with some grinding device that was inserted into the holes.  Grinding noise, dust all over the place.  Was it working?

Close, close, very close – then the Spiral Stela was in place and could be locked down.

Peter Powning put his finger inside the hole – the 1/8th of an inch of lip had been ground away.  The installation could continue.  The crane lifted the Stela upright, eased it in over the base plate and gently lowered into place – a little jigging and it slipped over the bolts and a much relieved Peter Powning put on the lock nuts and prepared to secure what is known in architectural circles as an obelisk.

Done – now all they have to do is put the veil in place and Stela is ready for her public unveiling.

Now all they had to do was strip away the packing material put the veil over the structure and they would be ready for the unveiling.

The veil was made of material that landscaping people use.  Relatively heavy black cloth that Freiburger and his wife stitched at home. “We basted the pieces together so lightly that a decent tug and they would come apart.

Four tales were attached to the veil.  Mayor Goldring, Peter Powning, the artist, Dan Lawrie, the benefactor and Chair of the Performing Arts Centre, Rick Burgess would be at the end of each tail to give them a gentle tug.

The public will then see a unique piece of work that has the city and its history stamped all over it.

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