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Rock sculptures take their place among Vancouver’s public art

Balancing rocks on one another to create a work of art might seem impossible but that is exactly what John…

By Golnaz Fakhari , in Culture Municipal issues , on October 20, 2011 Tags: , , , , ,

Balancing rocks on one another to create a work of art might seem impossible but that is exactly what John Shaver does in and around Vancouver.

The Ambleside shore inspires Shaver

Shaver is an independent artist who creates rock sculptures. He has been working on Ambleside shore in West Vancouver over the past year.

Public art is a priority in Vancouver, with the city aiming to encourage artists. More than 20 new permanent and temporary public artworks were commissioned for the 2010 Winter Games.

According to Shaver ,an art piece is a way artist tries to communicate with his audience.

“Every human being has something to say and share a thought with people,” he says. “An artist’s way to send that message is art. That is why this sort of work matters.”

Shaver’s balancing act

Shaver has no formal arts training, but he does not see that as a barrier. He likes to work whenever and wherever he wants.

His work is inspired by The Coral Castle created by Edward Leedskalnin in early 1900s in Florida. Leedskalnin made a castle out of stones single-handedly and managed to move it from one place to another.

Shaver started to work on rocks around English Bay in downtown Vancouver five years ago. But waves easily destroyed his art so he decided to move to the other side of the Lions Gate Bridge, the Ambleside shore on West Vancouver.

The local authorities are open to the work of artists like Shaver.

Glenn Madsen, the cultural program coordinator at the district of West Vancouver, said there were no regulations against artistic work in a public place.

“I consider such work as a random act of art, its not public art,” Madsen says. “They somehow spur dialog among people and become a meeting spot for them.”

“If the residents of the community start to complain about it ultimately it can end up with a policy. Other than that I don’t see any problem with it.”

Balancing rocks are dotted around the Ambleside shore

Defining the city

Vancouver has an official public art program that covers a variety of activities. They include public and private sector artist commissions, community art initiatives and citizen donations of artwork.

The city aims to commission art that expresses the spirit, values, visions, and poetry of place that it believes collectively define Vancouver.

Bryan Newson, Vancouver city art program manager, feels that this program contributes to the values of the city.

“It is about creating a place for artists,” he says. “We are interested to bring artists forward and contribute to the values, visions, and the poetry of Vancouver.”

Arts professor Xiong Gu at the University of British Columbia says public art is an attempt to make the environment more pleasant.

“Public art is a broad concept,” he says. “It does give a city identity.”

But others are more guarded. “There is nothing unique about Vancouver,” says John O’Brian, arts history professor at UBC. He points out that the city has less public art than most other cities, like neighbouring Seattle.

Art with a message

The rock sculptures have become part of the landscape in Ambleside.

“It is really nice to see that someone puts all of this effort to build something for the community,” says Feri Amin, a West Vancouver resident.

“I think every person has something to say about life, maybe a message,” she adds. “I believe that creating a sculpture is the way artists use to send us that message.”

Shaver believes that each set of rocks resembles one person and their personalities.

After a minute or two, people find themselves staring at one set for several minutes and just like clouds, they can shape a figure in their eyes.

“When you associate with that stone, you must realize that one day that stone will fall and so you will too,” says Shaver.  “Life is temporary … so enjoy right now.”

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