Forks smokestack to become giant flower vase with Winnipeg public art installation

A massive piece of public art is planned for a defunct smokestack at The Forks.

Artist Cameron Cross oversees $500K public art installation involving crocus flowers, smokestack

'I think it'll be a new contemporary icon.... It will change the skyline in a great way,' said Cameron Cross of his planned art installation, Ears of the Earth. (Artist rendering courtesy Cameron Cross)

A massive piece of public art is planned for a defunct smokestack at The Forks.

Artist Cameron Cross is working on a project that would see eight giant prairie crocuses and 20 stems installed in the top of the stack that rises above the Citytv building across from the Forks Market.

"I've had the idea about 18 years. I just saw it as a flower vase … a 100-foot-tall flower vase," said Cross. "I think it'll be a new contemporary icon.… It will change the skyline in a great way."

The Forks Foundation has approved Cross's proposal on the conditions he raise the necessary funds and the smokestack is assessed. The stack, built in 1945, will have its current condition tested and be reinforced before the sculpture is installed.

Flowers made of steel, aluminum, fibreglass and polymers will then be added.

Cross is working with the Forks Foundation as well as teams across Canada, including a Calgary-based fabricator, a Winnipeg engineering firm and a Toronto engineering firm.

Rogers, which leases the building, has also helped with the project.

Flowers and stems will stick out about five metres above the top of the smokestack, which is located next to the CityTV building at The Forks. (Artist rendering courtesy Cameron Cross)

"The sculpture is going to be called Ears of the Earth. It's to pay homage to indigenous people that obviously have a stake in this area. Certain tribes used to call prairie crocus ears of this earth because it was the first flower to come through the snow to signify spring was on its way," said Cross. "It's a very symbolic flower for this province as well. It's a real icon of Manitoba and the Prairies."

The project will cost between $460,000 and $640,000 by the time it is complete. Cross plans to raise the funds from private sources.

Cross has been working on the project actively for the past 2½ years.

"A really good piece of public art is a piece of public art that can engage many different people on many different levels," he said. 

The piece will shift the view of the stack from the industrial to the aesthetic, Cross said.

"There has to be some meaning behind it but also has to look pretty darn cool. It's a piece of pop art, right? I think it's going to make people smile."

'I think it's going to make people smile,' Cameron Cross says of Ears of the Earth, the artwork he's planned for The Forks. (Artist rendering courtesy Cameron Cross)

with files from CBC's Trevor Dineen

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