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Artist Features

Looking through the glass: Of Birds and Such

April 4, 2021

"Of Birds and Such" by Public Studio at the Strathearn LRT stop

The Valley Line Southeast LRT project is adding a splash of colour and texture to communities along the route thanks to the City of Edmonton’s Percent for Art Policy which is managed by the Edmonton Arts Council. 

The Valley Line Southeast LRT project’s public art collection will include 14 different projects, including art glass at five of the eleven stops and at Davies Station, five stop canopy sculptures, one mosaic, one series of paintings, and one inflatable sculpture. Additional opportunities for artists to get involved in Valley Line Public Art are yet to be announced. 

Individual artists, organizations, and collectives submitted 260 submissions for the public art opportunities along the 13 km LRT route. Each submission was reviewed by selection committees made up of community members, local artist representatives, project personnel, and City of Edmonton staff. The commissions were awarded to four Edmonton-based artists, three Alberta-based artists, one international artist, one Indigenous artist team, and one Métis artist. 

The majority of the selected artists proposed engaging with the local community to refine their concepts and build stronger connections between the residents and the new artistic addition to their community. The team from Public Studio in Toronto didn’t let distance get in the way of working with Edmontonians, and their final pieces were created in collaboration with a number of local artists and photographers. 

Let’s take a closer look at the art glass installed at the Strathearn stop.

Imagined by the team at Toronto’s Public Studio, Of Birds and Such highlights the natural habitats of birds and other animals that have co-existed in Strathearn for generations. Public Studio’s work identifies local species and species at risk to remind people how precious the environment is every time they pass by the Strathearn stop. 

The final works are composites meant to look like 19th century dioramas. The idea of the diorama back then was an urgent call to the rapid decline of species that came with industrialization. Today our call is much the same although even more urgent,” said Public Studio artist, Elle Flanders. 

Similar to dioramas at museums, the art at each stop shelter uses scale and depth to transport viewers into the depicted environment. 

In museums, teams of people with different backgrounds work together to create the dioramas. Public Studio took a similar approach and engaged with the Edmonton Area Land Trust and local artists — many with a distinct connection to Strathearn — in order to create these dioramas. Each shelter is a testament to how communities can come together to create wonderful things. 

The landscapes, wildlife, and plant life for the project were all captured by local artists and photographers. Igor Woroniuk, a landscape painter who lives in the Strathearn area created all of the backdrops based on local sites. Wildlife photographers Gerald Romanchuk, Don Delaney, Betty Fisher, Janis Hurlburt, Doris May, Nick Parayko and Alex Nagy contributed wildlife photos, and visual artist/​photographer Dwayne Martineau captured plant life photos for the project. 

With a robust collection of great images, the team at Public Studio — Elle Flanders, Tamira Sawatzky, and studio assistants Kyle O’Brien, Miles Rufelds, and Josh Schonblum — got to work collaging the images together to create the composite images that were printed on to the glass walls of the stop shelters. 

As artists and creators, Public Studio hopes that the community and commuters feel surrounded by beautiful nature and are reminded that what we have is worth fighting to keep and enhance. It’s also a reminder of what is at risk. We want to remind people that they must demand that our local, provincial and federal governments address the climate crisis now, or this wonder will be gone.” 

Heading to Strathearn? Take a walk along 95 Avenue to see these dioramas in person. Share your photos with us on social media using #YEGPublicArt.