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[Video: Reflections on the River]

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Public Art Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

Public Art Wood Buffalo has installed the first community selected public art piece: Reflections on the River 

Reflections on the River is a piece of public art created by artist David Robinson. Nestled near the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers, the piece represents our region’s rich heritage, culture and people

The PAC wishes to thank all residents who participated in the selection of Reflections on the River in 2015, and for their ongoing support of Public Art Wood Buffalo. 

About Public Art Wood Buffalo

Public Art Wood Buffalo is the all-encompassing brand for the Municipal Public Art Program. Public Art Wood Buffalo refers to the Municipal Public Art Policy, Public Art Committee, Public Art Guidelines, Public Art Collection and Public Art Plan. 

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is dedicated to continuing to build a culturally vibrant region, while strengthen a sense of place and belonging for its residents through Public Art Wood Buffalo.

Reflections on the River

Artist's Concept

Reflections on the River

Reflections on the River

[Artist rendering of Reflections on the River]

Though the typical language of monumental public sculpture is often focused on memorializing some particular personage or event, this work seeks instead that greater distance from which we might see not a human, but humanity - not a river, but the cultural connectivity of rivers.

Approaching MacDonald Drive, framed against a stunning view of the Athabasca River, we see a broad plate of Corten steel; rising 20 feet out of the ground, cut and curved as the meandering oxbows of the wandering water it mirrors. Drifting the current in a morphic memory of the ancient canoe, we see a figure plying these ancient waters. With their earthen oxides of green and rust, both canoe and figure are sculpted in an open lattice of metalwork; they are intended not as opaque historical depiction, but as open aesthetic reflection. Human and craft, their conjoined image playing on the waters, with a blazing sun, the harbinger of time, balancing on the horizon.

Artist Biography: David Robinson

Artist: David Robinson

David Robinson, Artist, Reflections on the River

David Robinson was born in Toronto, Ontario where he began studying Fine Arts at The Central Technical Institute. He continued his studies at Vancouver Community College and became an Honours Graduate in the Sculpture Program at the Ontario College of Art.

Robinson's striking sculptures incorporate a variety of materials ranging from traditional bronze, iron, steel and silver to polymer-gypsum, concrete, mirror and paper. While his work is primarily figurative, he often adds psychological and mythological twists to his subjects by situating them in environments that speak to the inherent tensions of human life. Robinson has a deep reverence for imagery and symbolism, and this, combined with his remarkable skill allows the viewer to participate in the allegorical through contemporary form.

Robinson says, “It seems to me that my sculptures, before they are anything else, are manifestations of fitful waking dreams; narratives whole and smashed, images, ideas, all distilled through the passage of time and the particular resistance of matter.”

Robinson has produced numerous solo shows, as well as participating in many group exhibits nationally and internationally. He has produced several pieces for public spaces, and his sculptures have been acquired for many private and corporate collections.

Reflections on the River: A Timeline

June 2015: Site Selection

The Public Art Committee (PAC) and the Municipality hosted public engagement sessions to select a site within the urban service area. Based on public response and with support from the PAC, the causeway at MacDonald Drive was selected as the preferred site for a public art piece. A three-phase site-specific international artist call was circulated.

Fall and Winter 2015: Artist Selection

A five-person artist selection panel made up of local subject matter experts awarded six artists to enter into a design competition. The six designs were circulated for public consultation using a survey. The results from the public survey and the results from the final selection panel were unanimous in awarding David Robinson for his piece, Reflections on the River.

2016 - 2017

Preparation work included contract negotiation, manufacturing and underground electrical work. Delays occurred in 2016 due to the wildfire.

Next Steps

The estimated timeframe of site preparation is spring 2018, with installation in summer/fall 2018.

Reflections on the River: Q&A

How will Reflections on the River age over time? This piece is fabricated from weathering steel and cast bronze elements, which means the sculpture is durable and requires little maintenance. Aside from a natural weathering of the patinas on both metals, there should be no discernible wear to Reflections on the River for the foreseeable future.

What will happen if someone graffiti vandalizes Reflections on the River? Graffiti can generally be removed with a high-pressure washer or solvents can be applied with a low-abrasion technique. In the event of stubborn graffiti, the steel can be blasted with corundum.

Why was a local artist not selected for the project? Local artists were invited to submit proposals in the 2015 call for artists. Of 23 proposals, one was submitted by a local artist. After significant public engagement in the public art selection process, David Robinson’s proposal was selected.

How was the public consulted on this artwork? In June 2015, public art engagement sessions were hosted by the PAC and Public Affairs team to provide information to residents and learn where they would like to see public art. Another public engagement session was hosted in December 2015 within several venues across Fort McMurray and by online survey to assist in the selection of the first public art piece commissioned through the Public Art Wood Buffalo program. In total, we received over 1,100 complete surveys which, at that time, was a record high response to surveys issued by the Municipality.

What is the cost of Reflections on the River? The total approximate project cost is $375,000 and the funds were allocated from the Public Art Reserve Fund as per the Municipal Public Art Policy. Project costs include site preparation, artist fee, manufacturing, transportation and installation.


Municipal Public Art Policy

Approved by Council on July 9, 2014, the Policy states that the Municipal Public Art Program will develop a dynamic collection of art that celebrates Wood Buffalo's culture, history and people, while enhancing the visual and aesthetic impact of the region.

Municipal Public Art Guidelines

The guidelines set the standard for the acquisition, collection, management, maintenance and conservation of public art. The intention is to help create a cultural legacy for the municipality as its population, communities and infrastructure grow. These guidelines are generally used as internal directives for municipal departments.


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