In 2021, Business & Arts NL released the Explore Art NL public art app to help people discover, understand and appreciate the works of public art spread throughout the province, including over 110 outdoor murals, sculptures, memorials and yarn-bombings. The app (which includes map and directions features) allows users to browse works by location, medium or artist, and includes background information and links to help them learn more about the significance of each piece, its creator and location.
This week, we’re thrilled to launch a series of curated tours in the app to help users engage with and consider the featured artworks in new ways as we reflect upon our evolving culture and societal values. We invited local artists and curators to submit themes for potential tours and in the end, six were selected, including Anna Murphy, Candice Pike, Rachel Gilbert, Tanea Hynes, Emily Critch and Jane Walker.
Each of the tours offer the artist’s/curator’s perspective on the selected pieces, helping grow the conversation around public art, its purpose, and how it will continue to evolve as we look toward a more equitable future for all.
Anna Murphy’s tour “Absence Imagination” asks app users to consider the empty spaces that lie between a sculpture’s materials, and potential interpretations.
“Working on this tour allowed me to consider the spaces public art occupies. Whether initially known to the artist or not, the surroundings and climate in which we view art can change how we consume it. Particularly in sculpture, the negative and positive space welcomes its background to interact with the viewer’s eye,” Murphy says.
“Since creating this tour, I have come to notice public art with a different frame of view. Just as art can feel different depending on your background or mood, the works I have chosen incorporate nature and all it has to offer as they exist outdoors. Shadows, new plant growth, or sunlight offer a new version of each public art piece each time you view it. It is exciting to consider works made in metal or stone to still have fluidity in your experience with them.”
Speaking of her tour “Art in Action,” Candice Pike says “I was curious about how these pieces not only existed in public spaces, but created public spaces.”
“To choose them, I recounted my own embodied experiences and memories of public art in NL, searched through each piece on the Explore Art NL app, and asked friends and social media followers for their stories. Often in this process, the specifics were missing. Trying to match ephemeral performances, events, and actions with concrete artifacts meant that things didn’t always line up. I spent a good deal of time on MUN’s DAI (Digital Archives Initiative) poster database – looking through event posters to try to figure out what happened where and when. But, of course, most posters left off important details. So much of NL’s lived history is here-and-gone, but both the tangible sculptures and the visceral memories they inspire remain.”
The theme of Rachel Gilbert’s tour is “Female Figures in Public Art.”
“Working on this tour has brought to my attention the need for increased access to a foundry or large sculptural space that provides artist residencies, educational opportunities, and technical support,” she says.
Such a space, she adds, “would allow more women, and other underrepresented community members, to learn and experiment with creating large-scale public artworks in the province and allow women artists to portray themselves how they want to be portrayed. With access to this, we would no doubt see more women artists submitting to community or regional postings for public art proposals.”
Tanea Hynes’ tour “Mural Explorations” helped change her own perspective on murals, particularly those in the province, she says.
“It really made me think about how commissioning murals in smaller communities could help bring permanent works of art to people who live far away from cultural institutions. If there had been a vibrant mural in my small hometown, perhaps it would have inspired a little optimism, and a higher sense of value within my often overlooked and underserved community,” she adds.
Emily Critch’s tour “Reconsidering our Monuments” takes a look at several statues throughout the province and the attitudes and narratives they embody. “Placed high on pedestals or created larger than human scale, sometimes monuments are created as symbolic reminders of the histories that are valued by the communities they belong to or the people who commissioned them. Unfortunately, each of the statues in this tour are painful reminders to many,” she notes in the tour’s introduction.
“Meant to inspire reflection amongst the public on what histories are chosen to be told, this tour is a call to action to hopefully enact change, and to celebrate the many communities who call what is currently ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’ home.”
In her tour “The Public Art of Luben Boykov in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Jane Walker looks at seven pieces by the prolific Bulgarian artist and their contributions to the creative and cultural landscape of the province. The tour “features work by Boykov and his collaborators that demonstrate the impact of migrant voices on the visual art landscape, histories, and futures of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Walker explains.
“While taking in Boykov’s diverse works, I invite the viewer to consider the commissioning bodies and intentions behind the substantial investments of bronzeworks and narratives across the province.”
We hope these tours and the dialogue they produce will help shape the conversation around public art in the province going forward.
Business & Arts NL is always seeking to add works of public art to the Explore Art NL app. Have a suggestion? Click here to send us the details.