Artist refuses award after city moves 'site-specific' work

A jury liked Shayne Dark's Erratic Field so much, it gave him an urban design award for the sculpture on Trim Road. But the artist turned it down, saying the work is not the best it could be after the city changed the plan for its location.

The work is less deserving of praise when situated in the new location, said artist Shayne Dark.

Dark is the artist behind the instalment Erratic Field, an idea inspired by stones that were dropped by the glacier around Ottawa's Cardinal Creek park. (Shayne Dark)

Kingston artist Shayne Dark was initially "flattered and thrilled" to create art for Trim Road, but was so irritated by the city's decision to relocate his work that he's turned down an award.

Dark designed his installation Erratic Field especially for Cardinal Creek Community Park. It's inspired by large boulders commonly known as erratics that were scattered across the Ottawa landscape more than 10,000 years ago, according to the city's announcement of the prize.

Dark spent several months working on the concept, he said, expecting that a large berm at the Cardinal Creek site would be a pedestal for the installation. Instead, the city opted to put the sculpture on a different site along Trim Road near a strip mall.

"I was notified that the location was switched, and if I wished to continue with this, then I would have to execute it in this secondary site," Dark said on CBC Radio's All In A Day.

Dark said his contract with the city allowed for the move, but the switch diminishes the work because the sculpture's placement had been central to a vision developed over a long period.

"When you're coming up with a concept you take all things into consideration," Dark said. "It's nothing that you decide overnight."

Sculpture 'transforms the suburban environment,' jury said

A jury selected Erratic Field for one of the city's 2017 urban design awards, saying it "transforms the suburban environment with carefully executed minimal sculptures, each varying in size and design, arranged in an apparently random order."

But Dark said he can't in good conscience accept the prize when the artwork is not the best it could be. 

In a written statement to CBC News, Nicole Zuger, the program manager for Arts and Heritage Development with the City of Ottawa, said the decision to change the location was made after consultation with the community and planning staff at the city, and that Dark had been consulted on the location as well.

"There are no future plans to move the art," Zuger said.

Despite his experience this time, Dark said he'd still consider bidding on public art projects in the future.

"I think it's so important to have sculpture in the city environment," he said.