Woodstock's latest commissioned sculpture seen as possible renaissance for public art

On Wednesday, the city of Woodstock unveiled its latest public art commission, at Florence Carlyle park in the Bruce Flowers sculpture garden.

Although its the first, the sculpture, Wind Vane, by Kingston artist Nicholas Crombach, won’t be the only publicly commissioned artwork in the park, as there are plans to have another project join it, a trend Mary Reid hopes will continue.

“We've just shortlisted for our next commission that will happen this time next year for this park,” said Reid, the director of the Woodstock Art Gallery.

The city’s first public art commission is exciting for Reid, who has worked as director for the city’s art gallery for 10 years.

Reid believes it is important for artists to be paid for their work and creativity.

Crombach, 34, was selected from a shortlist of four artists. Each short-listed artist was paid $1,000 for their formal proposals.

The total commission for the project was $55,000 including materials and labour.

After the proposals were submitted, the public weighed in on their pick, which Reid thinks had to do with Crombach's sculpture “touching on a lot of universal themes.”

“It talks about struggles of identity, of meaning, of belonging,” Reid said.

Crombach said he is honoured to have been given the opportunity to create the sculpture for the Woodstock park.

A working artist for 12 years, Crombach said he derived inspiration from the past, and kept the city of Woodstock in mind.

“(Wind Vane) is very much inspired by some of the late 18th century and early 19th century weathervanes in the Woodstock museum,” said the Kingston-based artist. “I was trying to create a work that was really site sensitive, thinking about Woodstock’s Victorian roots,” he said.

Crombach has had his work displayed in multiple exhibitions across Canada, as well as internationally.

His resume includes residencies at the Florence Trust in London, England, the Western North Caroline Sculpture Centre and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Reid said she has been trying to kickstart a public art program since the beginning of her tenure with Woodstock, and hopes the momentum for more public art projects across the entire city will continue.

“I appreciate that people have to come to the art gallery to take an art class or see an exhibition, but they'd be more apt or more comfortable to do that if they have it within their own everyday spaces,” Reid said.

Art gives public spaces a unique identity, Reid said, and she is “blessed to live in a city with gorgeous parks everywhere,” and enjoys working alongside Woodstock’s park supervisors.

Florence Carlyle park will be the main public art park in the city, said Reta Horan, of the parks and forestry department, but Woodstock is looking to increase public art throughout the city to draw people to those spaces.

The city’s sculpture garden was made possible through the generosity of local artist and educator Bruce Flowers, who left a significant portion of his estate to the Woodstock Art Gallery following his death in 2018.

With files from Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press