A moving piece of public art

 On the December 10th edition of ‘Serf City’ we spoke with Stephen Kopp and Monica Adair about ‘In Transit,’ their new work of public art at the city bus terminal on the east side. We also spoke with Chris Lloyd, a Saint John born artist living in Montreal, about the cultural significance of public art in our cities. Listen to the full episode here. The following commentary kicked off this week’s show.
By Mark Leger

Saint John has long had highly visible pieces of public art. The Hooper statues in Market Square and now at the foot of King Street come immediately to mind. So does Claude Roussell’s “Progression” on the front of the city hall building.

But it wasn’t until I took a trip to Prague in 2004 that I fully appreciated how public art transforms a cityscape. There the playful works of David Cerny captured my attention as I wandered city streets and cast my eye over the skyline. Two works in particular stood out.

One is called The Pissing Men, located in a centrally located public square. Two full-size sculpted men face each other, standing in an encased pool of water the shape of the territory of Czech Republic. They are fountains except that the water comes out through the penis rather than the mouth or some other opening.

Another Cerny work is called Tower Babies. A communist-era television tower dominates the Prague skline, marring the skyline of a city celebrated for its architectural heritage. Cerny designed giant sculpted, faceless babies in the crawling position. They were placed on the towers and can seen scaling it from a great distance.

These pieces are playful in nature, but are also communtaries on czech culture and politics.

I came back from that trip with a renewed appreciation for the place of public art in Saint John – be it the Hooper sculptures, or the murals of famous Saint Johners on the wall of Thandi’s restaurant on Cantebruy Street.

Happily, we now seem to be going through a renaissance in public art, thanks in part to a new city policy that sets money for public art at the site of new city buildings.

Earlier this year, Peter Powning designed a giant stainless steel bolt for the new Saint John Energy building on the west side. Powing’s bolt is visible from the highway.

And just last week, local architects Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp unvieled their work, ‘In Transit,’ which is located outside the new Saint John Transit building on the city’s east side.

On tonight’s show we’ll speak with them about their new work, which consists of a series a colourful aluminum panels along the cement retaining wall outside the new station. We also spoke with Chris Lloyd, a Saint John born artist living in Montreal, about the cultural significance of public art in our cities.

Listen to the full episode here.


4 responses to “A moving piece of public art

  1. Good to see ( hear) you talk about the public art scene Mark. It is an important part of a growing city.
    -Darren Emenau

  2. Bernard J. Cormier

    Enjoyed listening to your interview with Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp on their public art work entitled “In Transit”. It was good to hear Chris Lloyd on your program, as well.

    I believe Monica and Stephen’s “In Transit” piece is a great expression of optimism for our city and its future, just as Claude Roussell’s “Progression” artwork at City Hall was in the mid 1970s, and the many public art pieces at Market Square were during the Bicentennial years of 1983-1985.

    Saint John Energy, by the way, also commissioned Saint John artists Cliff Turner and Peter Salmon to produce a large mural in the utility’s front lobby. They also selected Bruce Gray to create a public art piece in their entrance vestibule.

    “Truly a work of art is one that tells us, that nature cannot make what man can make.” – Unkown

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Thanks also for mentioning the name of the City Hall piece, which I originally referred to as the “three fingers.” I made the change in the piece on this page, one of the luxuries of web publishing not available to print publications. – Mark

  4. Love the art, and the artists, but my first cynical thought on looking at it, and considering the area it is in, was: How long before vandals attack it?

    I was thinking a similar thought when we drove around Uptown on Saturday night before The Nutcracker (and after Sense of Tokyo;) – where are the Christmas lights on all the beautiful homes? Do they not bother due to vandalism?

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