Artist dismayed after Lansdowne Park installation taken down for Grey Cup seats

Vancouver artist Jill Anholt is questioning why she was not consulted before her sculpture at Lansdowne Park was taken apart to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup.

Moving Surfaces installation removed to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup

'Moving Surfaces' was installed at Lansdowne Park in September 2014. (David Barbour)

An award-winning Canadian artist is wondering about the fate of a major work of public art she designed for Lansdowne Park, one she says was dismantled to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup.

Until last week, Jill Anholt's Moving Surfaces, a giant steel and light sculpture, was installed atop a hill of rolling green next to TD Place Stadium.

Now the multi-million dollar installation has been removed to make way for way for additional seats for the upcoming Grey Cup on Nov. 26.

"I wasn't consulted about the process," said Anholt from her home in Vancouver.

Anholt said she has no details of how her very complex construction of bended steel and LED lights was taken apart, and how it is being stored. She worries that a lack of expertise, combined with the speed of the removal, may have damaged her work.

Jill Anholt is an award-winning artist who creates site-specific installations. She lives and teaches in Vancouver. (Jill Anholt Studio)

"I'm really upset, terribly upset," she said.

Anholt said she was surprised to learn from the city's public art department that Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and the City of Ottawa were considering moving the art, because prior to the sculpture being installed in 2014, her team had already come up with a solution if the need arose for more stadium seating.

"We did numerous studies, 3D modelling, drawings, had multiple conversations, documentation, to prove that the artwork could co-exist with the stands, so as far as I was concerned that was put to rest years ago," said Anholt.  

Anholt said when she learned about the possible move, she quickly resent those studies to the city and OSEG, with a request for more information about what they were planning.

Temporary stands are being installed where Moving Surfaces once stood. (CBC News)

"I got nothing. The next thing I know they were taking it out," she said.

Anholt said she only learned the art was being removed last week, when a concerned citizen from Ottawa sent her photos of her sculpture in pieces, laying uncovered on the ground.

Anholt said she was 'dismayed' to see her art work being taken apart after a passerby sent her this photo. ( Alan Dodson)

Safety behind decision, says city manager

Dan Chenier, the city's general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, said "unfortunately the artist wasn't advised before the work got started," but added that Anholt was contacted shortly afterward.

Safety concerns were behind the decision to temporally replace the artwork with stands of seating for the upcoming crowds expected to take in the Grey Cup football game and the Heritage Winter Classic hockey match, Chenier said.

"Initially it was believed that the stands could be built over it, but because of the berm, the configuration of the site, it was found that it couldn't be done safely," said Chenier.

Chenier said the sculpture will be reinstalled in the same location in the spring, after the sporting events are done.

Bernie Ashe, the CEO of OSEG, said in a statement released Wednesday that attempts were made to design temporary stands around the artwork, but "regrettably, that was not possible."

"Great care was taken to temporarily move the sculpture from the berm at the west end of Lansdowne Park and great care will be taken to reinstall it in its permanent home in the spring. We look forward to seeing Moving Surfaces back where it belongs," Ashe said.

Anholt, however, said she has "grave concerns" the intricate artwork can ever be reassembled.