How the birds came here to roost

$200,000 public art piece Birds on a Branch unveiled Friday

A new public art piece is set to take flight at an official unveiling this Friday.

Folks are invited to the opening of Birds on a Branch, a installation created by visual artists Jacqueline Metz and Nancy Chew and commissioned by the City of New Westminster.

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“We were really intrigued by the scale of it,” Chew said.

The canvas is a whopping 660 feet long and 25 feet high, and the artists did their best to use as much of the space as possible for the installation. Birds on a Branch wraps around the outside of the parkade, overlooking Westminster Pier Park.

Chew and Metz’s intention was to bring a bit of the natural world to a piece of downtown infrastructure often seen as devoid of nature. Their idea began with a desire to take something “prosaic and sort of mean” and turn that into something poetic

“You’ve got this kind of pedestrian material,” Metz said. “How (do you) make it really pop out and meaningful?”

Birds on a Branch attempts to create an intimate moment between the viewer and nature. Metz equates it to the “experience of watching birds in your garden or hearing them sing,” she said.

“This work is huge, but it also plays with the intimate,” she added.

What’s most surprising about the piece, however, is the colour: A bright vibrant yellow called Parkade Lemonade. When city council approved the $200,000 mural in 2015, the concept image depicted the birds as black, making them look like crows rather than songbirds.

“When you’re inside the parkade on a sunny day, it’s really luminous,” Chew said.

“This really was the thing that popped out because it’s not a solid canvas, right, it’s quite transparent and the background changes throughout the day and night,” Metz added.

For arts coordinator Biliana Velkova, Birds on a Branch realizes the city’s vision of “softening the utilitarian look of the parkade.”

“We were looking for something bold, something colourful, something that would be a conversation piece, and it would really add to the signature of the work that we’re doing on Front Street,” she said.

The piece took a team of five two weeks to install Birds on a Branch. The materials are woven into the chain link fence and can be viewed from inside and outside the parkade, which makes for two very different experiences, Velkova told the Record.

“When you see it from the inside it actually has a different look, it’s more abstract because you’re only seeing parts of it,” she added.

Since its installation, Velkova has already received many positive comments from the public.

“People are liking that element of whimsy that’s happening down there, and I think it complements what’s happening in the Front Street beautification project that’s happening on the other side of the parkade,” she said.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new public art piece, Metz and Chew will be in New Westminster for the inaugural Fridays on Front, this Friday, July 7, for the unveiling and public art tour hosted by Velkova and culminating with the release of doves.

“We’re really excited about that – we’re having fun with the bird theme,” Velkova laughed.

Take a tour:

WhenFridays on Front, this Friday, July 7, from 6 to 7 p.m.

What to expect: Expect to see different art pieces, including The Telephone Salesman, Birds on a Branch, WOW New Westminsterand the new Front Street Mews mural. Birds on a Branchartists Jacqueline Metz and Nancy Chew will also be on hand to talk a bit about their new installation (followed by the dove release).

Where: Meet at the new Front Street Mews (McKenzie and Front streets)

Cost: Free

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