In honour of International Women’s Day I want to give a shout to some notable women in public art in the great city of Montreal (the place I call home). But before I do that, let’s have quick look at the numbers.
About a year ago I looked at the representation of women, on average, who were awarded public art commissions through the City of Montreal’s public art program since 1950. While this is not a scientific poll, and this is only one of the commissioning avenues in the city, I think it presents a realistic average of how many woman have, and are today, involved in public art:
1950-1975: 3 out of 48 artists were women (6.25%)
1976-2000: 18 out of 118 artists were women (15.25%)
2001-2015: 17 out of 48 artists were women (35.4%)
This sample group certainly shows that the involvement of women making public art has increased considerably, but in my opinion, we still need more ladies in this industry!
Here are some of those mould-breaking ladies who paved the way for me and others in the (still) male-dominated field of public art, in no particular order.
No survey of public art in Montreal would be complete without talking about Marcelle Ferron, and it’s certainly not for tokenism. She was a power house in the art scene and created timeless artworks. Even if you don’t recognize her name, you’ll surely know her stained glass work at the Champ-des-Mars Métro station. http://artpublicmontreal.ca/en/oeuvre/verre-ecran/
She was also part of the automatiste movement and signed the 1948 Refus global manifesto. Read more about her whole history HERE
On a personal note, I came to know her work when I was shortlist for my first public art commission. It was at a seniors centre in Brossard, called Centre d’accueil Marcelle-Ferron. There is a large aluminum sculpture of hers outside the building, so that prompted me to do more research on her. I won that first commission, (Seen here) and I still feel pride for even incidentally being associated to her name.
Known primarily for her textile work, Micheline Beauchemin was commissioned for numerous prestigious pubic art works in the country including a 23-metre-by-13 metre curtain for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She worked with crafts people at the Kawashima Knitting Mill in Kyoto, Japan to make this curtain as it was the only mill large enough to handle the size of the curtain.
In Montreal, we can see her work "AILES COULEUR DU TEMPS, NUAGE DE SOLEIL" (1983) at the Palais des Congrès. Comprised of suspended synthetic strings, this creation is made of 7000 aluminum rods with mirror finish, at a height of between four to twenty feet and a length of 38 feet.
She also won the Governor General's Award for art in 2006. Read more about her legacy here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/quebec-textiles-artist-micheline-beauchemin-dies-1.855578
You have likely heard her name a lot recently, due to her monumental sized artwork, HAVRE (seen here and below) installed outside the new McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). It faces the front facade of the building, close to my indoor mural Structura Habitata (seen here), which is at the entrance of the Royal Victoria wing. While HAVRE is a stunning piece, especially when experienced from the inside, looking up at the sky, Covit has created many artworks across the island of Montreal. Another one my favourites is in Lachine, smaller in scale, but no less in presence, called Theatre for Sky Blocks http://artpublicmontreal.ca/en/oeuvre/theatre-for-sky-blocks/
While doing research for this post, I came across a book called "Stealing the Show: Seven Women Artists in Canadian Public Art” by Gunda Lambton. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely on my next read list. http://www.amazon.ca/Stealing-Show-Artists-Canadian-Public/dp/077351189X
My work is inspired by many things and if i look back at the seeds that were planted to help me build a foundation in the public art profession, I don’t have to look any further than my mom. It is not just the work but what it represents and today it’s about recognizing the place I have because of those who paved the road before me.
I'd love to hear if you have a favourite public art work done by a female artist. Drop your top picks in the comment section below.