v) Birdhouse Garden Public Art Installation

The Birdhouse Garden Project 1993 - I won this public art project in Ottawa, ON. It was a $40,000 contract to produce this piece which involved several sub-contractors and an engineer, Eric Karsh, a landscape artist, Mary Faught and myself. The areas of work were designing the project, preparing a critical path, constructing and painting birdhouses, landscaping, creating a path for wheelchairs and walkers, vintage garden, sub-contracting bronze directional letters, designing and sub-contracting benches and sub-contracting carpenters. It nearly gave me a stroke working on this installation. It was way out of my range of art expression, but it was well received by the Carleton Lodge and residents.

What interested me initially in birdhouses was a grouping in Merrickville, ON where I spied this cluster of birdhouses while I was on a day trip there. They were all made by the same person and were simply in his somewhat rural back yard. I was more than pleased that he agreed to duplicate a couple of them for my project. He agreed to leave them unpainted. As a result of this initial find I started seeing vinatge designs of birdhouses all over the Ottawa Valley . I made some modifications in some of the designs. I searched out precise architectural designs for others which I found in the museum and then sub-contracted others to build them for me leaving them unpainted as well.

I then painted them in a large studio I rented for project in Ottawa. At one point I had dozens of large, white primed, birdhouses in the space - ghostly houses.

There was a fire in the warehouse above me one midnight and I was sure I had lost the whole project. Luckily all were saved.

[With gratitude, my friend and artist Mary Reardon from Halifax, came to work with me and support me and help through the project during a final studio week before installation. My father had been unexpectedly killed in a car accident in Memramcook, NB. I was unable to really tackle the final studio work at this point due to shock and grief. ]

NOTES

There are duck houses facing the Rideau River, large martin houses and many others for small songbirds. The residents can hear the birds from their open windows. There are also birds inside the building. This project was a total pleasure to work on and I had many wonderful conversations with the residents about their lives in relation to birds in their personal histories before they came to live here. The average age of the residents is 85 years old.