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Cast party

Mike Fleury is statuesque.

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There is a large circular platform in front of the North Branch Memorial Library on Gottingen Street. For the past year, it has looked conspicuously vacant; like a stage without any actors, or a pedestal with nothing to support.

Which is basically what it’s been. Since its installation in the spring of 2006, the platform has been patiently waiting for a new piece of public art to liven up the space in front of the library on Gottingen.

Don’t worry; it’s coming. NSCAD ceramist specialist Doug Bamford proposed the winning design for the site along with his partner, Ontario-based artist Stephen Brathwaite. Bamford describes their vision for the project.

“It will be a wall,” he says, “A monolith that carries the community’s history in fragments, etched into the surface of steel.

“On this monolith, there are two figures. One figure is firmly placed on the top of the wall, and is assisting a second figure to climb up. And then there’s a third figure that stands on the roof of the library—a youth—and he’s watching this happen. So, visually, there’s a sightline there that connects the piece to the library, that firmly connects it as part of the library building. Like, the library is watching the struggle outside.”

Using a relatively new technology called surface water jet cutting, the monolithic structure will be engraved with images that show different aspects of the neighbourhood’s history—and there was plenty of history to choose from, says Bamford.

“I live in the area,” he says, “and I know, it’s got to be one of the most colourful places on the planet. People were asking for a piece to commemorate and remember, which means somehow going back and recognizing the native heritage, the early settlers, the glory days of Gottingen—back when it was the downtown shopping district—the shifting demographics, the explosion...there’s so much.”

The piece has also found a very direct and literal way to involve the community—the three human figures in the piece will be modelled after actual residents of the neighbourhood, using plaster body casting to help capture their likenesses. Last Friday, Bamford and Barthwaite were in Saint Patrick’s-Alexandra school to explain their project to a group of junior high students, and to search for volunteers who were willing to be immortalized.

“We spoke to a grade 8 and a grade 9 class…we explained some of our previous work, showed them the model of the library project, and explained what it was. Then we said, ‘So, who wants to be a part of it?’

“The kids were fantastic. We would ask them, ‘OK, which one do you think would be able to lie really still?’ or, ‘Who won’t open their eyes while we’re pouring plaster on their faces?’”

There isn’t yet an official unveiling date for the piece, but both Bamford and the city are saying that it should appear sometime in the summer of 2007.

Circuit breakers

The Alliance for the Planet, a group of environmental organizations, is calling on you—yes, you! —to give the planet five minutes of electrical rest on February 1 (it’s the same day that the UN report on global climate change will be released in Paris).

Not only that, the Alliance wants everyone else on earth to power-down with you, at exactly the same time. So, turn off your lights and appliances, Halifax, from 2:55 to 3pm. Do it for the planet; the planet would do it for you.

Do it for me. Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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