The Royal Botanical Gardens unveiled a new addition to its sprawling, green grounds Thursday — an infusion of sculpture and public art.

It’s a project called the International Sculpture Collection, founded by Hamilton insurance broker Dan Lawrie and managed by Cobalt Connects and the RBG.

This is a permanent collection that organizers expect to grow each year in the RBG’s Hendrie Park, adding new works from around the world. Presenting art in a natural space like this fundamentally changes both the design and appreciation of art, says Jeremy Freiburger, chief connector and cultural strategist at Cobalt Connects.

'This is all inspired by the space.' - Jeremy Freiburger, Cobalt Connects

“It’s not just ‘they make a cool thing somewhere and dropped it somewhere else,” Freiburger said. “This is all inspired by the space.”

Take Pollinizers, a massive metal structure made by artist Dave Hind and the Aluminum Quilting Collective. Pollinizers depicts two hands manually pollinating a fruit blossom, a practice that happens in China, where they pollinate pear trees by hand as most bees have died off. You can watch video of the sculpture’s installation (shot by Cobalt Connects and edited by CBC’s Adam Carter) in the player above.

It’s meant to symbolize the RBG’s role as a steward of the land, and is a metaphor for the organization’s environmental philosophies. The whole thing has also been coated in beeswax as an all-natural metal polish and protector. “It’s an absolutely stunning piece,” Freiburger said.

As it stands outside, audiences can experience it from much greater distances than would be possible in a conventional art show. “There are so many things that are different out here,” Freiburger said. “You can see it from 200 feet away for five feet away.”

It’s also typically much easier to get people out into nature to experience art than to get newcomers inside the gates of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Freiburger says. This way, artist’s work gets more eyeballs.

There are six pieces of art planned for the RBG this year. Four have now been installed, and two more should be in by the end of October. The others include:

  • Edwin and Veronica Dam de Nogales: Generations
  • Barbara Amos: The Scope of Change
  • Bob and Jo Wilfong: On the Wings of Love
  • Catherine Lavelle: Haven
  • Taurai Mutigwa: Rejoicing Family

If all goes well, the RBG could be laden with art within the next decade.

“They are totally open to art being a part of their identity going forward,” Freiburger said.