Artistic surprises up, down, all around on Confederation Line

Artistic surprises up, down, all around on Confederation Line

Whether you're embarking on your morning commute or on the weary journey home, the folks who planned Ottawa's Confederation Line want you to pause and take in your surroundings. Chances are you'll be rewarded with an unexpected encounter of the artistic kind.

It may be a mural glimpsed from a passing window, a multi-coloured passageway or an entrance adorned with silvery leaves — it all depends on your perspective.

The city invested $7 million to bestow a unique character on each of the new LRT line's 13 stations, and 22 artists from the area and across the country answered the call. 

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Look up, way up

To take in some of the stunning installations along the Confederation Line, commuters may need to tilt their heads up. Several of the commissioned artworks are displayed high above.

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At Tunney's Pasture station, light streams through the huge, multi-hued skylight, splashing colour across the walls and floor. Vancouver artist Derek Root envisions his Radiant Space as animating the daily commute.

"I really wanted to activate the environment with colour and texture," Root said. 

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A field of silver flowers dangles from the walkway overhang between Tremblay station and Ottawa's Via Rail station, casting shimmering floral shapes underfoot.

Toronto artist Jyhling Lee's said she wants her National Garden installation to change with the weather.

"The flowers will waver in the wind, create shadows on the ground," Lee said, standing beneath her garden in the sky.

"The piece will be constantly changing because of its capacity to reflect and take in the surrounding environment."

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High above the platform at Pimisi station, 100 hand-painted paddles hang arranged in the shape of a canoe. 

Màmawi is the work of Algonquin artist Simon Brascoupé, who made sure each paddle tells its own story, drawn from Anishinaabe culture. 

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Don't miss the vibrant ceiling at Parliament station, a cubist homage to Tom Thomson's iconic painting The Jack Pine, from artist and author Douglas Coupland.  

A seat with a view

Some art is best viewed from the comfort of your seat.

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Local artist Adrian Göllner's As the Crow Flies is an undulating installation of tubular steel and fencing best appreciated from a passing train at Bayview station. The 120-metre line drawing suggests the topography of the Gatineau Hills and rooftops of Mechanicsville as it mimics a crow's flightpath.

"It wiggles and warbles and goes up and down as you go in and out of the station," said Göllner, who hopes commuters can pry themselves from their cell phones to gaze instead out the window as their train rolls by.

"Maybe this will get their heads up," Göllner said. 

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A garden grows deep within the tunnels of Parliament station. Common plants and enduring weeds climb along laser-cut steel panels designed by New Brunswick-based artist Jennifer Stead.

Stead hopes this injection of green will temper the concrete surroundings and remind travellers of the diversity that sprouts from Canadian soil.

"We're a growing country and we have people from everywhere, and they tend to get along," Stead said.

Unexpected encounters

First-time users of the LRT may be too busy getting their bearings to take notice of the art that surrounds them, but it's there, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places.

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Subtle patterns line the escalators climbing the levels of Rideau station. The shape this takes to get to that is Toronto artist Jim Verburg's first attempt at a public art installation.

"It's kind of odd, because if it's an art show of my work, people who go are very invested and they want to see it," Verburg said as he watched oblivious commuters pass by his muted arrangement of porcelain tiles and steel rods.

"You might not know it's an artwork at first," he acknowledged. 

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Glossy murals alive with the figures of man and beast tower over travellers on the westbound platform at St-Laurent station. They're the work of Chelsea, Que., artist Andrew Morrow, and they tell stories that invite close examination.

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In the light-infused environment of Blair station, glittering screens of glass hover along the stairwells and tracks, swaying gently as trains come and go. 

Lightscape, a whimsical and imaginative addition to any commute, is designed by local artist cj fleury and Montreal-based Catherine Widgery.

According to the city, the artists were inspired both "by the sunrise" and by the station's proximity to the National Research Council, just down Blair Road.