This past year myself and landscape architect Eileen Finn were commissioned by the City of Pointe-Claire to build a work of art to be permanently placed in a space along the waterfront of Lac St.-Louis, just next to the Sisters' former residence. We were asked to create a piece that commemorates the significant contribution that the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame made to the community for a period of more than two centuries.

     The Sisters of this religious order primarily chose education as their vocation, so we chose to use books as the main visual element in the artwork, to signify learning and teaching. We felt a strong calling to engage the community in the process of constructing this commemorative sculpture so we asked for book donations from residents of Pointe-Claire to include in the mold for the sculpture. The mold is made to look like the negative of a bookshelf, and when the final sculpture is broken out of it, the texture of the books (especially those with embossed spines) will remain. The concrete that we’re using for this project is LaFarge’s Ductal® which is extremely strong and also made to catch very fine detail, so the imprints of the books will be captured exquisitely.

     In our initial research for this project, we found treasure in the archives of the Congregation of Notre Dame, and chose 12 books from these archives with beautifully illustrated covers that span from the 1800s to the 1970s. We had the covers digitally scanned and the images will be transferred onto porcelain to be inlaid into the concrete sculpture.

     The title of the sculpture, Impression, is a double signifier in that it speaks to the actual impressions that the books will leave in the concrete as well as the metaphorical impression that the Sisters have left on the community and on the young girls they taught during their years of service.

Landscaping features, as well as a bench, a rose bush and a cascade of violet-coloured lilies, will accompany the sculpture to create a welcoming space for people to sit and enjoy the view of the waterfront. The work will be installed in May of 2015 and an official inauguration will take place some time in June.

Here are photos of the mold-making process using the donated books, as well as some interior book images of a few of our favourites.

Public Art 101: What is the Percent for Art Program?

     First, a little background; I have presented maquettes and artwork designs for 10 projects and have been awarded 6. While building up my career as an active artist I spent 6 years working for one of the world's best fabricators for public art, Mosaika Art & Design. Here’s a video of my project, “Croissance (Growth)” being fabricated in their atelier.

    The information I’m sharing here will be related to permanent commissions primarily through “percent for art programs”. In Quebec it’s called the “politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture”. The program is called “Percent for Art” because roughly 1% of the construction budget of a publicly funded structure must be devoted to integrated art or an artwork acquisition. This program applies to new buildings or expansion projects of $150,000 or more, for places deemed as private or commercial buildings. It does not pertain to roads, bridges, viaducs, or parking lots (unless part of a larger complex, like the McGill University Health Centre). Typical locations would be: theatres, museums, libraries, schools, university buildings, health centres, nursing homes, hospitals, sports centres, bus stops, courthouses, etc.
Quebec's program has been around a long time, but this same system exists in many other cities across Canada (like Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, amongst others). They can also be found all across the US. 

How is the percentage for art calculated?

It depends on the cost of the project, and the breakdown for projects in Quebec goes like this:

- $150,000 - $400,000: 1.75% (artwork acquisition between $2, 625 - $7000)

- $400,000 - $2 million: 1.5% ($6,000 to $30,000)

- $2 million - $5 million: $30,000 for first 2 million then 1.25% for remaining ($30,000 - $67,500)

- $5 million and over: $67,500 for first $5 million then .50% for remaining ($67, 500 and over)

    Next time on Public Art 101, I’ll give you some of my best tips and tricks and do some Public Art Mythbusting! I’m looking forward to reading comments and answering your questions below. If you like my content and want to read more, come follow me on Twitter!