Three Centuries of Public Art:
Historic Halifax Regional Municipality
Our city began its tradition of public art three centuries ago. Observe the installation of the Town Clock and the Sebastopol Monument, the first out of necessity the latter out of respect. Will the Ranter’s poem printed in the Morning Chronicle of July 25, 1860 echoes Rev.George Hill, rector of St.Pauls Anglican Church’s speech at the unveiling of the Sebastopol Monument, one of the first memorial in all the country for the Crimean War … “The lion stands out boldly in his place, His sinewy limbs and muscle we can trace.” Listen as Lady Aberdeen reads a sonnet written for the unveiling of the Jubilee Fountain in the Gardens on June 24, 1897, after she couldn’t pull hard enough to unveil the fountain. Visualize the small bouquets given by the Commissioners of the Gardens to the ladies who attended the unveiling of the Boer War Fountain in 1903. See the audience, some probably in tears. as a guest describes the hardships of fighting in South Africa. Compare that with the trench warfare described by Hon. James Ralston at the unveiling of the Cenotaph in Grand Parade, July 1, 1929.
Witness the unveilings of Bobby Burns and Sir Walter Scott who finally had a coming together in 2010 after the bagpipes and “ Blue Bonnets Over the Border.” Feel the stress on the shoulders of the Cornwallis committee, 1931, to raise the funds, for our cursed even then, founder. Feel the tension as “hard-over’ Harry Dewolf leads HMCS Haida into battle. Pay respect to Churchill, winner of the Battle of the Atlantic and World War 11.Puff out your chest at our representative government memorial, the Dingle Tower; place your finger on some of the names of those who sacrificed for us in the Cross of Sacrifice.
Construction noises usher in the rebuilding of Halifax’s downtown redevelopment of its waterfront. Watch “Mad Dog” cut, sculpt, and finish Humagination with his requiem “Bless the Cop.” Put your fingers on St. Elmo, patron saint of fisherman, in DeGarth’s, 1980s monumental work in Peggy’s Cove. Witness the Bird of Spring’s flight: north, then west, then east. Stony old bird, preening herself in Ondaatje Square alone, until Origins moves in on June 16, 1995.
Celebrate within the Peace Pavilion as Douglas Hurd, British Secretary of State signs the guest book at the opening of this sculpture on June 16, 1995. Discover the origin of the images on the Canoe built to celebrate the International Federation Canoe Sprint World Championship, August 12, 2009. Hear the cadets’ feet marching together to the new Cenotaph in North Preston in 2011.
Trace the coming of our immigrants in the Celtic Cross, Dutch and Korean Cenotaphs, Vytaiemo, the Winged Lion, and Pier 21, our Immigration Museum. Think hard about the Wheel of Conscience Memorial, June 20 2011, now within this museum. Reacquaint yourself with the Atlantic, Tribune, Titanic, Halifax Explosion, and the Swiss Air disasters. Celebrate the navy’s 100th anniversary with their new pieces of public art.
Smile at the industrial engineering students attempt to make us stop and stare and cry at the art students and their leaders’ memorial to the Fallen Peace Officers. Admire with the students, the “old” but venerable dog guarding the Convent of the Sacred Heart.
Make your own journey of discovery with Three Centuries of Public Art. If you will, listen, the sculptures are speaking.