Calling all creatives: Qualified artists needed to make LRT public art

Artists with a vision to beautify the expansion of Ottawa's light rail network have a chance to get in on the ground floor, as the city's competition to find qualified artists launched this past week.

About $10 million is being set aside to fund public art for Stage 2 of LRT, a $4.66-billion project that will extend the transit system east into Orléans, west into Kanata and south to the Ottawa airport.

About $7 million of the $10 million budgeted will fund the artwork itself, and another $3 million or so will fund related administrative costs, jury selection processes and workshops, among other things.

Applications are now being accepted from teams of artists prepared to transform daily commutes into artistic journeys.

City of Ottawa

Unlike the public art process for Stage 1 of LRT, artists will be able to start working with design teams earlier on.

"We've come out a little bit earlier this time around ... so that we've got the artists on board before the designs are really kind of locked in, so that the artists have more of an opportunity to really influence the designs," said Julie Dupont, who manages the city's public art program.

Four teams of artists will be selected to develop artwork for four sections of the expansion:

  1. One team will handle the Montréal, Jeanne d'Arc, Place d'Orléans, Orleans Boulevard and Trim stations, as well as the surrounding landscape (the Confederation Line east extension).
  2. Another team will work on the Westboro, Dominion, Cleary, New Orchard and Lincoln Fields stations (the Confederation Line west extension No. 1).
  3. Another will focus on the Moodie, Bayshore, Pinecrest, Queensview, Iris and Baseline stations (the Confederation Line west extension No. 2).

In its request for qualifications, the city is asking the three teams above, working on the Confederation Line, to think about creating "a cohesive narrative between and along" the extensions. Artists have until April 24 to submit applications.

Sandra Abma/CBC

And for the Trillium Line expansion, a fourth team will design digital media artworks for the Gladstone, South Keys and Bowesville stations. Artists in this category have until May 1 to submit applications.

Each team will get about $2 million.

"There are examples all over the world of incredible public art in metro stations, " said Dupont, citing examples in London, Paris and New York City that have become Instagram icons.

Salvadore Laporta/The Associated Press

The public art for Stage 2 is an opportunity to celebrate local creativity and heritage, she added.

"It's important that each station has its own personality and individual look and feel," said Dupont, adding that public art can also provide a sense of safety for travellers.

"It means that the station is looked after," she said. "It just gives an atmosphere of safety."

Later this year, another request for qualifications will be issued to find a fifth team of artists to design and implement a community engagement process for the Byron-Richmond Corridor, and to create "a quality public space and experience for its users."

Felipe Dana/The Associated Press