Munching treats (thanks to the Extreme Bean), a modest crowd gathered on the mushy sod along the Bow River on Saturday, June 27. Although it was still early afternoon, people quietly sought shade near a podium where the ceremony was about to begin.
It had been a long time coming, but the Parkdale (River) Plaza was finally opening to the public. Years earlier, Parkdale’s river pathway had been identified as the location for a prominent piece of public art, beginning the long process of determining its location, design, and construction.
After 14 months of start-and-stop activity, the fences were finally removed, ending the latest confusing (and potentially dangerous) pathway detour. Curious neighbours and passersby peered over the artwork’s concrete rim into its curvaceous pit, assessing the piece’s meaning, impact and value.
Was it worth the budgeted $1.8m cost? Did the paving stones have to come all the way from India? Will it add to the quality our life or be a detriment? Did the outcome justify the inconvenience? Surely the answers lay somewhere within that concrete rim. Or – perhaps – in the accompanying speeches.
There were a lot of words written and spoken, and it was impressive to hear how much thought and collaborative effort had been put into its creation. As the event wrapped up and the crowds quietly dispersed, the “Outflow” artwork remained and began its quiet repose by the river.
Pathway users stop and gaze over the rim, many puzzled. Some start conversations, try to get comfortable on the benches, avoid barking their shins on the wire walls, or simply struggle to find a route through on their way somewhere else.
As much as it is a piece of art, “Outflow” also hopes to also be informative. Whether it answers more questions (hey, look what’s being washed off our streets!) than it asks (who do I call about that graffiti?) remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the river flows past, intent on finding the easiest route to the Hudson Bay, even if it means chewing a hole in the riverbank due to an ice-jam (2007), or creating new riverbeds (2005, 2013). The Bow River is peaceful, angry, expensive, confusing, beautiful…in short, dynamic!
Indeed, no sooner did the fences come down, than yet another fence has gone up as part of the ‘Riverbank Stabilization Project’, a massive effort to protect the bank from erosion, with accompanying detours.