Riverside Bridge Comes to Light…..
“Everyone knows ‘The River I Step in is Not the River I Stand in.’ My kids knew that when they were little.” Paula Fletcher, City of Toronto Councillor for Ward 30 said when discussing the Bridge Beautification project that was unveiled in June 2015. She is referring to the phrase that spans the western edge of the bridge and sits atop the clock. The famous and beloved art installation, created by world-renowned artist Eldon Garnet, underwent a transformation and one that was not taken lightly, no pun intended.
The bridge was illuminated on June 5, 2015 – the result of almost three years of planning that came to light in time for Riverside to Host the World, during the 2015 PanAm Games. The Riverside BIA worked alongside City of Toronto Culture, City of Toronto Capital, Councillor Paula Fletcher, Artist Eldon Garnet, Lighting Designer Paul Boken, Banner Designer Rebecca Houston and Lighting Technician, Nick Iozzo – to name a few key team members – to make the project happen. As well, corporate sponsorships were essential to securing funding for project completion. Streetcar Developments Inc. was the project’s Gold Sponsor, Hullmark Developments and Downtown Automative Group were Silver Sponsors. HarHay Developments, Ashlar Urban Realty, Bank of Montreal Riverside Branch, Brightworks, The Avro and Il Ponte all supported as Bronze Sponsors.
“We really have to thank the BIA for their resolve in making this happen,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher, “I’ve been happy to help in any way I can but it is their resolve to make the entrance into the east end even more special that made this project happen.”
Almost three years back, when then Executive Director, Perry Lupyrypa, joined the Riverside BIA, the BIA team stepped back and asked, ‘What can we do to get Riverside on the map?’ They knew the Pan Am Games were coming and were aware that the bridge with its beloved artwork was already a huge asset to the neighbourhood. “We knew that with the CIBC Athletes’ Village coming, the world would be on Riverside’s doorstep,” says Lupyrypa. “There was a window to get help and all these windows presented themselves and all seemed to work out.” Riverside BIA Board Members including Dale Sonier of macFAB, Natasha Varjacic of Nell & Natasha Real Estate Homeward, and Rachel Conduit of Table 17 advocated for the BIA in the countless meetings that were required to get the project off the ground. Councillor Paula Fletcher was on board, the City was supportive and meetings with the artist were held since with anything involving public art there is a process that needs to be followed.
The Back Story: Behind the Scenes
Nick Iozzo is an Illumination Engineer with DPM Energy and works with the Economic Development group at the City of Toronto to support Business Improvement Areas with lighting projects. However he said, “Working with a bridge is unique for us. It is not every day we do bridges.” What they did was to use lighting to “highlight the architectural features” of the bridge. Nick’s company handles all the installation, tenders, contracts, wiring, etc. They basically get the job done. During the process he worked alongside Paul Boken who is a Lighting Architect with Mulvey and Banani, and who Nick referred to as the “creative muscle” on the project.
Paul’s team was very careful about the way they proceeded in considering the lighting. Given that the clock was already lit, Paul’s team thought, “Let’s finish what was started and illuminate the text.” Now that tiny linear LED lights were available, Paul’s team was able to subtly outline the letters. The next step was to determine how to best illuminate the structure. He says they asked themselves, “What can we do with directional light to illuminate what you don’t usually see?” They highlighted some internal components and main beams in their plans.
Paul was particularly excited that the bridge illumination included the introduction of coloured lighting that can change. “We light for the public,” Paul said, “Colour is a great way to tie in to an event and adapt to the neighbourhood.”
As Paula Fletcher put it, “The bridge will become a beacon for the east end.” She adds, “It is about connecting. It is a gorgeous bridge and one of the only ones with public art on it. It needs to be treated specially.” As part of this special treatment, the BIA had to look into updating the bridge banners. These are the spirals of steel that carry on the ribbons from Eldon’s work. As it turned out, these were not created by Eldon but rather by artist Jim Houston. In a wonderful twist of neighbourhood syncronicity, and completely by coincidence, the artist who recreated these banners is Jim Houston’s daughter, Rebecca Houston. A masters student in sculpture and a metal worker, Rebecca met Perry through one of Rebecca’s many community work projects and she ended up being the ideal person to take on the redoing of the banners.
Rebecca described the banners as being “ribbons of steel that will spiral around the pole and that reference the river and the ribbon.” Here too colour was introduced and Rebecca told me “the profile looks like the letter R for Riverside.” Rebecca felt that introducing colour would bring the work into the vocabulary of modern sculpture; however she kept to colours that reflected the brick of the historic neighbourhood. “I chose vermillion, or orange peel. I wanted it to be a colour with an industrial feel.”
Like everyone who has been involved with the project, Rebecca said, “I can’t wait to see it!” She believed “lighting brings an ephemeral element” and her thoughts are echoed by the man behind the lighting plan, Paul Boken who said, “It definitely transforms the bridge. Previously at night it is just kind of dead. It makes a drastic difference and walking through it is now a memorable experience.” Thanks to the hard work by all team members on this project, generations to come will know the Riverside Bridge as not only a place that speaks to them but also lights their way.
About the Original Art “Time and a Clock” Installation
It is the essence of time, its substance and ambiguity that is examined in this sculpture/installation. This is one work in three sites. It encircles the Riverside BIA with text. Three different types or styles of time related text were written, one for each site.
Art piece #1: On the eastern entrance to this area of the city, on the Queen Street Bridge a line of text:
THIS RIVER I STEP IN IS NOT THE RIVER I STAND IN. Stainless steel letters, 18 inches in height, supported between steel beams, a six foot diameter ring of light as a clock.
Stainless steel: 24″ wide x 72″ high x 40′ long
Clock: 60″ diameter
Art piece #2: At the intersection of Broadview and Queen Street: stainless steel checker plate, 19″ high letters; four expressions dealing with time; embedded in the sidewalk at four corners:
TOO SOON FREE FROM TIME; TIME IS MONEY: MONEY IS TIME; BETTER LATE THAN NEVER; TIME=DISTANCE X VELOCITY.
Stainless steel checkerplate 19″ high letters
Coloured concrete: 24″ height x 35′ radius
Stainless steel checkerplate letters: 24″ high
Each corner: 35′ approximate radius
Art piece #3: Beside the Jimmy Simpson Park are four stainless steel pennants, four declarations of time, a lyrical poem, one word per pole:
COURSING, DISAPPEARING, TREMBLING, RETURNING.
The text in this work is written for a metropolis of readers who may read one word today at one site, or the next day the entire text at the three sites. The words fly by us as we fly past them. It is in parts, read in parts; never at one place at one time. It is text in flux.
Stainless steel: 36′ wide x 22′ high