TORONTO – A group of art lovers is petitioning the city to make public art available to the public.
The limestone sculpture garden, entitled Garden of the Greek Gods, was created by Canadian artist E.B. Cox who died in 2003. It had been on public display at Exhibition Place until Muzik Nightclub expanded their patio around the statues, dumping sand and mulch around each.
“My father would be turning over in his grave if this had happened. He had a strong belief in the value of public art to the city, to tourism, to art lovers, to art lovers, to families with children. A place where people could go to a sculpture garden, admire the art, learn something about Greek mythology,” Kathy Sutton, the artist’s daughter said in an interview Wednesday.
“He never would have wanted people to have to go to a nightclub and pay the fees to look at the art in an inappropriate setting.”
The building and the surrounding property was put up for lease by the city over a decade ago and Councillor Mike Layton explained, no one asked about the art.
No one thought about the issue until the artist’s family wanted to see the now cordoned-off sculpture garden.
“Finally when it started coming back and the family came back and said the intentions of these was to be in the public domain so they could be enjoyed by everyone and I think we should respect the artist and the family’s wishes,” Layton said.
“It is unfortunate that these pieces of public art are essentially in a private collection.”
Exhibition Place currently doesn’t have a policy ensuring public art is actually available to the public, Layton said.
The artist’s great-granddaughter created a petition on Change.org asking city council to move the sculptures out of the fenced-in patio area.
But it’s not clear if anything will come of the request.
The Exhibition Place Board of Governors signed off on a motion in May that delayed moving the 20 limestone sculptures. The motion suggested the process would cost nearly $500,000.
Sutton however says the sculptures could be moved for a tenth of that price.
Layton put forth a motion at the last Board of Governors that asked staff to look into the having scheduled times for public viewing or even moving the sculptures out of the patio.
“We have asked for a new plan for how exhibition place deals with its public art to ensure that it does in fact stay public,” Layton said.
But Sutton is worried about damages: the mulch, sand and “excessive cleaning” could lead to irreparable damage, she said.
“Many of the pieces have been buried, especially Hercules, almost up to his ankles, moisture is seeping into the rock, there is mulch around some pieces and the wood acid can deteriorate the stone,” she said.
She’s hoping councillors will address her concerns at the next Board of Governors meeting on September 10.
Exhibition Place refused to comment and Muzik Nightclub did not respond to phone calls and emails.
– With files from Christina Stevens