Reviving Sidney’s Sculpture Walk

Business Improvement Society gets $20,000 from Town to save the Walk

There is a collection of sculptures throughout downtown Sidney — did you know that they are a part of a self-guided tour in the community?

If you didn’t, and simply enjoyed the works of various artists, you are not alone. Sidney’s Sculpture Walk has been fairly quiet in recent years, following a strong start in 2011 and ‘12, when 12 pieces from a variety of sculptors were selected to be installed along the waterfront.

Additional sculptures found their way to benches alongside Beacon Avenue and there are other works to be found off Sidney’s main street.

Since 2012, however, attempts to add to the Sculpture Walk have languished. A call for artists in 2013 received no submissions — a lack of promotion of the Walk and a perceived lack of interest were cited as reasons in a recent Town of Sidney staff report. Another call was made in 2014, as well as attempts made to reinvigorate the program, which was also met with limited success.

By 2016, the Town of Sidney had to admit it did not have the resources or the expertise to sustain the Sculpture Walk. So, they met with various local arts and marketing groups to explore their options.

This year, the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society (SBIA) has stepped in to see if they can promote the Sculpture Walk, add to it, and turn the self-guided tour into a showcase of the art, culture, history and wildlife in Sidney.

“All of those things should be put under one umbrella — the Sidney experience,” says Susan Simosko, the SBIA’s executive director.

To bring that vision to life, the Town of Sidney had funded the SBIA’s proposal t the tune of $20,000 — $10,000 over the next two years. The goal, Simosko, said, is to increase the footsteps in town by promoting what Sidney has to offer. In this case, she said, there’s an opportunity to revitalize the Sculpture Walk.

Simosko said three things happened to get to this point. The first was speaking with the Town about taking on the Walk. Around that same time she said the SBIA met with the Sidney Event Advisory Group (SEAG) where the idea of historical tours in town was raised. The third, she continued, was a bird walk she took with the Friends of Shoal Harbour, exposing her to the varied wildlife in the area.

If there was a way to combine all of them into a bigger, better Sculpture Walk, Simosko said she wanted to find it and work with various local groups and First Nations along the way.

First on the list this year, Simosko explained, the SBIA will use the first $10 grand to work with the local sculptors’ guild and arts community to discuss the chances of Sidney hosting a sculpture festival – which could go a long way to reviving the Walk. At the same time, she said they will look at creating self-guides walking tours for the public. That means developing new flat maps and online maps that will take people to each existing sculpture. She said the maps will likely be first on the list, and be available by Canada Day this year.

Next year, Simosko said they will look at applying for arts grants in the region to help with plans to grow the Walk and include the wildlife, culture and history aspects of their plan.

“This can only happen through collaboration between the Town, SBIA, artists, Mary Winspear Centre, Sidney Museum, FOSH and other groups.”

Throughout it all, is the promotion of the sculptures themselves in order to draw in more artists. Simosko said they plan to work with them about what can be done to rework the display and attract new pieces.

“We want to have something that’s really vivid, that depicts Sidney’s rich cultural life.”

Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Sidney, Randy Humble, said council approved the first $10,000 out of the municipal economic development fund. The second $10 grand will be included in the budget discussions in 2018.