A Main Street resident is questioning whether a seven-foot porcelain poodle perched atop a 25-foot steel pole is a proper reflection of his neighbourhood.
Mark Stoakes said if the poodle is supposed to be representative of the kitschy vintage shops, thrift stores, cafes and galleries that line sections of the street, it should have been installed in the heart of the mid-Main shopping district, not in front of the new Shoppers Drug Mart, TD bank and recent condominium project at 3333 Main St.
“It’s ironic the city chose that image for that location,” said Stoakes, who works for a software company. “Because that area is a complete reflection of the way the city is going and that doesn’t include room for kitschy designer boutiques or funky cafes.”
Stoakes noted the city hired an artist from Montreal to create a piece for an area famous for its artists and art. Montreal artist Gisele Amantea came up with the idea and later created the untitled sculpture, nicknamed “Poodle,” after spending two days riding a bus and walking along Main Street.
“So instead of hiring an artist from the neighbourhood, they hired an artist from Montreal who after walking up and down the street decided a poodle was the best reflection of the community,” said Stoakes.
The poodle, which cost $62,000, is part of an ongoing art project launched in 2009 called 88 Blocks: Art on Main, sponsored by the city’s Public Art Program and TransLink. Amantea created “Poodle” as part of Memento, which also includes “Memento: Pink” that uses a wrap to make an articulated bus appear to be covered in a knit cozy of a pink poodle. “Pink” also includes cards found inside the bus that reference a how-to book from the 1960s on making wool poodle cozies.
“Memento: Envy” is a panel installed on the outside of a second bus, depicting a group of poodle cozies made for bottles “looking longingly and jealously at a porcelain poodle figure — suggesting the class and cultural differences that historically have marked Main Street.”
“Memento: Multo,” found inside a third bus, features a set of 22 cards depicting more than 100 examples of the “modest but culturally and aesthetically interesting” objects that can be found in shops along Main Street’s 88 blocks. The transit art will remain in place until spring 2013.
Stoakes said he and other residents he’s spoken with would have preferred an image depicting the iconic Heritage Hall or one representing Main Street’s long history of transportation. In 1907, a streetcar barn was built on Main Street at East 13th Avenue, where the IGA supermarket sits. The first streetcar system in the city launched in 1890, between what’s now known as Union and Main streets.
Karen Henry, a cultural planner with the city, said art is subjective and so some residents might love a public art piece while others will hate it. As for the location of the poodle, she noted the spot was chosen because of the configuration of Main Street at that point.
“It’s also the gateway to that entire shopping area,” Henry said.
She said because the project was sponsored by the Ministry of Transportation, along with the city and TransLink, it required a broader call for artists across Canada. Henry added the Calgary-born Amantea previously lived in Vancouver and spends time in British Columbia.
Another public art work by Amantea called Red Horizontal was installed on the seawall near David Lam Park in 2005.