March 21, 2021
Category: Blog Posts
Spring Is Here
The sounds of chickadees, wrens, blue jays, geese, and woodpeckers fill the air. Dozens of rabbits abound. The sights and sounds of a fresh spring day fill your senses. But this isn’t the river valley. For 10 days this spring, this is what you’ll experience during an immersive outdoor art installation in AmiskwacÎw Wâskâyhkan Ihtâwin (Beaver Hills House Park) in downtown Edmonton.
As part of Downtown Spark, the Downtown Business Association invited artist Jason Carter and creative director Bridget Ryan to create a new exhibition in the spirit of the temporary outdoor installation they displayed in Banff in winter 2020.
“We are two lifelong Edmontonians who love the community and downtown,” Carter says. “It’s really special to be creating this experience for our fellow city dwellers.”
Since 2011, Amiskwaskahegan has been home to Carter’s Seven Northern Beavers—metal sculptural flags that honour the history of the park and its Indigenous roots. The new installation, wâpos (a Cree word for “rabbit”), likewise celebrates Indigenous culture and language.
“It’s a celebration of wâpos and spring,” Ryan says. “It’s a merging of cultures: the rabbit means so much to many people. We thought this would be a perfect exploration of an iconic character in the Indigenous community that everybody can relate to. There’s a desire to learn more about Indigenous culture and language, so this is an opportunity to educate and enlighten.”
“Rabbits have always been important in my work,” Carter says. “When I first started carving stone, the designs were very abstract. When I could see a rabbit taking shape in one of my carvings, I figuratively chased it and have since carved hundreds of rabbits. Rabbits kicked off this whole path for me as a painter and a sculptor. It was a pivotal moment for me as an artist.”
For Carter and Ryan, rabbits have also taken on a new meaning during the COVID-19 era. “Rabbits are robust, strong survivors that change for their environment,” Carter says. “When faced with adversity, they find a way to pivot. They are a good parallel to what we’re all experiencing. We have all been forced to change this past year, change from outward social experiences to inward social reflection.”
In order to provide a safe, comfortable experience, access to the outdoor installation will be through timed entry ensuring that no more than 20 people will be in the space at a time. After the sun sets, the lit sculptures will glow in the dark.
“People need to get out of hibernation and see art and experience art,” Carter says. “This is something people need right now—to get outside of themselves and experience a moment of awe. I really want people to have a spiritual experience walking through this installation knowing that there’s hope and there’s a future. Like rabbits, we have all pivoted but are on the right path moving in the right direction.”
Visit wâpos in Amiskwaskahegan (Beaver Hills House Park) March 25-April 3, 2021. Advanced registration is required. Book your FREE ticket through Tix on the Square.
Downtown Spark is presented by Western Economic Diversification, the City of Edmonton, the Downtown Business Association, the Edmonton Arts Council and Explore Edmonton.