Client: Edmonton Convention Centre
Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $50,000
Edmonton Arts Council
Edmonton Convention Centre
City of Edmonton
Migratory Paths celebrates the many migrations in this area, including the north-south movement of animals, humans and birds, from prehistoric to contemporary times. This suspended flock of 2,035 hand-formed ceramic birds references the seasonal migratory paths of many species of birds traveling through the Edmonton area, and speaks to the ecological practices that the Edmonton Convention Centre embraces in its day-to-day operations.
The artist was inspired by the Central Migratory Flyway, a predominately nocturnal aerial highway where tens of thousands of birds fly unseen over and above Edmonton in the night skies. This formation of thousands of birds intimates the diverse groups of people who circulate, gather and meet through the Convention Centre.
Suspended from a steel armature, the flock of golden birds glimmer in the natural light of the Convention Centre’s Atrium, providing a warm welcome and backdrop as visitors take the escalator to the conference rooms below.
A landmark of Edmonton’s cityscape, for 35 years the Edmonton Convention Centre has hosted conferences, concerts, social events, weddings, and graduations. The iconic atrium, which cascades down a slope overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley, connects Jasper Avenue with the valley below and the prairie sky overhead. Designed by Edmonton architect B. James Wensley, 70% of the building is located underground. Visitors are transported from the atrium to the conference spaces via an indoor funicular. In 2018, the Conference Centre was about to undergo a substantial rehabilitation focusing on the signature atrium. The project team was looking for an artwork that complemented the architecture of the building and spoke to the site as a gathering space. They wanted an artwork that would be in a high visibility location, near the main door to the atrium, which offers natural light from the glazed canopy. Vantages from the floor as well as the ascending and descending escalators afforded additional interesting viewpoints for consideration. They felt that this location would best be suited to a hanging sculpture or mobile. Migratory Paths was identified as a perfect fit for this location, given that it was a hanging mobile and would enhance the experience of the foyer.
Artist selection involved a collaborative conversation between representatives from the Edmonton Convention Centre, Edmonton Arts Council, the City of Edmonton, architects, engineers, industry specialists and designers. Alberta artist Catherine Ross was selected to create the artwork for the project because her concept was well researched, relevant to Edmonton, and reflective of the nature of the Convention Centre’s location and status as a gathering place. The selection committee was also drawn to the organic quality of the ceramic birds, and the way the installation would add to the experience of the building’s foyer, an area that is often overlooked by patrons.
Each of the 2,035 birds were modelled by hand by the artist then drilled, triple fired and glazed, a painstaking process that involved precise timing to ensure the pieces didn’t crack or break. Migratory Paths took a total of two years to complete and once finished, was packed into six pieces. Each line of wire was individually bubble wrapped, and then the pieces were placed into crates for transportation from Ross’ studio in Lethbridge to Edmonton. Once on site, installation took another three months.