A new set of sculptures meant to welcome people to Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood are leaving some onlookers scratching their heads.

Bambini, at the corner of Gladstone Avenue and Preston Street, has been in the works for some time. Designs have been approved each year for the past five years by the Preston Street Business Improvement Area, which is footing the bill.

The sculptures are supposed to represent a child's drawing of a soccer team.

The designs were forced to evolve over time to meet the needs of the city, Hydro Ottawa and Enbridge, and to help the sculptures stand up to the elements. For example, what would have looked like stick arms were eliminated due to logistics, said the BIA's Lori Mellor.

The result are sculptures that some say look like bowling pins with spoons attached.

'I think it looks cheesy'

“I don't like them and that's not real Italian flair,” said Darko Brakus, who added he’d rather have seen a fountain. “I think it looks cheesy.”

"Can't sum up my opinion of these new Little Italy sculptures in one tweet but I'll try: "awful," wrote Twitter user Olivier Cullen.

Resident Caitlin Hunter said she likes it.

"I think it's nice. It's very big, it's sort of overstated, but it's nice to have a sign for tourists and stuff like that, I suppose," she said. "Are they bowling pins? They sort of look like bowling pins. It's colourful and bright, I guess. I think I do like it." 

Sculptures not yet finished

The BIA has been getting a lot of feedback so far, Mellor said.

"Everybody has their own opinion. Art is supposed to create dialogue ... but I've had some dialogue that didn't exactly facilitate discussion. It was more angry and 'We don't like it,' and sorry, but when you take that kind of approach, how can there be any discussion for the next piece or how can we get better? But I've had many positive comments too," she said.

"It's a very naive kind of artwork, it's very rudimentary, and it was meant to be, because it's a child's view of a soccer team," she said.

The sculptures aren’t finished yet. Lights will be installed in the medallions around their necks and granite soccer balls and benches will be installed at the bottom for people to sit and climb on.

"The idea is ... you're going to Preston Street, 'Meet me at Bambini!' You can grab a seat, your friends can meet you there, and off you go," Mellor said. "We're hoping it'll be that kind of landmark."

Local businesses have already contributed $650,000 towards the sculptures, almost double the original expected price.

The BIA has been saving up for the sculptures for 10 years, Mellor said.

Poll question