Nova Scotia

Trees felled for road construction return to Halifax Common as art

Eighteen maple, elm and sycamore trees ranging in age from about 40 to 120 years were removed in 2014. The wood has been turned into art installations.

Residents invited to touch the art installations to reconnect with nature

Alan Syliboy's piece, called Mi'kmaw Sign Post, is installed on the Halifax Common in June 2017. (The Deanery Project)

Trees that were felled on the Halifax Common to make way for new roundabouts have returned to the public space as art.

Eighteen maple, elm and sycamore trees ranging in age from about 40 to 120 years were removed in 2014.

"Typically, when trees are cut in our urban forest, they end up getting chipped up and they go to the landfill," said Kim Thompson, the executive director of The Deanery Project, which is overseeing the art installation.

"Sometimes — not that often — they get used for firewood … and very, very rarely will they find their way into the hands of an artisan that can repurpose them."

The Deanery Project, an arts and environmental learning centre based in Ship Harbour on the Eastern Shore, was determined not to let the trees end up in the landfill.

Our Common Woods

The art project, called Our Common Woods, includes installations by local artists Theo Heffler, Erin Philp, Steve Sekerak, Gary Staple and Alan Syliboy.

Syliboy's piece, called Mi'kmaw Sign Post, is a wigwam constructed with eight paddles that represent the eight Mi'kmaq districts. The paddles are bound together with roots at the top of the structure, and on the ground in the centre of the wigwam is a stone with an eight-pointed star carved in it — a replica of the Bedford petroglyph.

This paddle is part of artist Alan Syliboy's art installation on the Halifax Common, called Mi'kmaw Sign Post. (The Deanery Project)

"It's a very sort of simple design, but it's very effective in telling a story that Mi'kmaq people were on this land for a long, long time and it's good to be back in the middle of Halifax again," Syliboy said.

Connecting with nature

Thompson said residents passing through the Common seem to be enjoying the art. Heffler's project, called elm elm maple elm, is "a wonderful piece," Thompson said. 

"I've seen people lounging on it every time I go by. It's very dramatic."

Theo Heffler's piece, called elm elm maple elm, serves as both art and park furniture on the Halifax Common. (The Deanery Project)

Children were in awe of Philp's owl-like sculpture when it was lowered with a crane a few days ago, Thompson said.

Thompson encourages residents to touch the sculptures and use them to connect with nature.

"We feel it's really important that we reconnect with our urban forest in really deep kinds of ways," she said. "And art's of course a wonderful vehicle for doing that."

The art installations will officially be unveiled on Wednesday at 10 a.m. as part of the municipality's National Aboriginal Day celebration.

With files from Moira Donovan and CBC's Mainstreet