Law turns firewood, vision into public art

A Tofitian street corner is about to receive a publicly artistic upgrade.

Local artist Dan Law received permission from the District of Tofino’s municipal council last week to temporarily infuse public art into a street corner at the Gibson and Campbell Street intersection.

Law plans to install several cedar pillars onto the grassy corner in front of the Tofino Coffee Roasting Company and to perch one to two carved ravens on top of each pillar.

“I want to take a mundane space like this street corner and a truckload of firewood and with a little vision and a little skill and a lot of hard work I want to transform this place into something meaningful,” Law told the Westerly News.

“Art, especially public art, can bring value to the community, it can increase dialogue (and) it creates places for contemplation. Even just the aesthetic value of having a piece of art in public is valuable in itself.”

Law’s temporary public art permit will run from Aug. 31 to Jan. 1, 2015.

The controversial return of the Weeping Cedar Woman last year sparked Tofino’s district office to start working on a public art policy and, during council’s deliberations around Law’s request, Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said a draft-policy is nearing completion.

“Staff is working on that right now with a consultant and an advisory group…it will come to council probably for first consideration maybe in late September,” she said.

Osborne expressed discomfort over council approving Law’s public art request without a public art policy in place.

“My discomfort arises from another political decision about a piece of public art and I really believe that the process of selecting and approving public art should be separated from this

(council’s) table,” she said.

Council unanimously supported Law’s request and, once in place, the new pillars will be an extension of the two already-present raven-affixed pillars standing outside the Tofino Coffee Roasting Company.

“It, kind of, creates a dialog. Each structure is interacting with the other structures and then as you walk through the space you’re going to be walking through a couple different interactions between the ravens and the objects,” Law told the Westerly.

He said the ravens perched outside the Tofino Coffee Roasting Company were part of a piece he displayed at an art show in Vancouver.

“I used the ravens in that piece to explore what it means to be human. You need to eat but there’s

a morality into it, how do you see the animals just trying to survive,” he said.

“We need to eat, we need to feed our kids, we do things sometimes that aren’t palatable but that’s part of being human; it’s that sort of paradox.”

He noted ravens evoke a variety of responses and their colour and shape allow him to create settings akin to three-dimensional charcoal drawings.

“Some people find them sort of sinister and some people find them in the opposite spectrum, but where I intend is somewhere in the middle, ambiguous enough to allow people to contemplate the nature of being,” he said.

He said public art is a burgeoning field in North America and hopes Tofino jumps on board the bandwagon.

“It’s been big in Europe and other parts of the world for millennia, but in the West people are just starting to become aware of the value of art, especially in public places,” he said.

“I think Tofino could be into it, there’s a lot of talent and a lot of awareness of the value of aesthetics already here… people come here because it’s a stunning place, why not add to it?” He noted the district’s work towards estab-

lishing a public art policy and said he is excited to see the community embrace the concept of contemplating and installing public art.

“There’s a lot of art going on already but to actually officially embrace it and say we’re going to make space for this and make it an important part of our community and make a plan so that we can

ensure the art that goes in is good, strong, quality art then the whole town benefits,” he said.

“It’s great for the artists because they have a venue, it’s great for the people because they can interact with unique West Coast art, and there is a unique West Coast flavour that goes on here that doesn’t happen in very many other places.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca