Sculpture Hill

[This article first appeared in High Park News, Summer 2005]

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See also Site Restoration

We now come to a group of sculptures which seems to cause a lot confusion and comment. Some are situated on the hill bordering the nature/dog path south and east of the Forest School building (Sculpture Hill). Others are north and west of the building itself. Where did they originate? What do they represent? Some look like “piles of junk”; why haven’t they been removed?

It all began in 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year when it was decided to hold an International Sculpture Symposium in Toronto with High Park (Sculpture Hill) as the venue. Interest was solicited from around the world and ultimately 12 international artists were selected including four from Canada. The artists all came to Toronto and worked on site, using the former Forest School to store their tools and gear. In the end, ten sculptures were completed, seven of which remain. (The three others went to the National Gallery in Ottawa, the McMichael Canadiana Collection in Kleinberg and the Art Gallery of Ontario.) Let us examine those that are still in place.

“No shoes” by Mark di Suvero, an American artist. This is the structure close to the nature/dog path. It is constructed from steel I-beams bolted or welded together and painted orange (The title reflects the era – the hippy years.). What one sees today is puzzling. But the original sculpture was much more elaborate. It was fitted with four free-swinging logs, perhaps relating to the surrounding trees. In time, these logs were removed and what was left fenced off because of the safety risk. [NOTE: This sculpture was removed from High Park in 2010.]

“Flower Power”, at the top of the hill, also by di Suvero, and, again, reflecting the 1960s. Today, it is hard to make anything out of what remains but, originally, it consisted of two interlocking triangles, the top one inverted, the whole held in place by cables under tension. Again, the painted I-beam structure was dismantled and fenced off for safety reasons. [NOTE: This sculpture was removed from High Park in 2010 has been restored and given a new home and new life. READ MORE ]

“Three Discs” by Menashe Kadishman, an Israeli. This sculpture is sited south of the second di Suvero sculpture. It consists of three cantilevered, contiguous metal discs painted yellow. It is an inviting target for graffiti artists but seems to remain untouched most of the time.

“November Pyramid” by Bernard Schottlander, a German artist, living in England at the time. Made of painted steel plates – great for children to climb on.Some years ago, someone painted the sculpture a vivid blue colour! Parks Maintenance staff quickly restored the sculpture to a neutral dull-brown colour.

“Mid-summer Night’s Dream” is the work of Wessel Couzijn, a Dutch sculptor. It is located on the hill near the Forest School. It takes a little time to realize that you are looking at concrete male and female figures facing each other, presumably doing what lovers sometimes do in the Park!

“Temple” by Hubert Dalwood, a British artist, is located north of the Forest School. This is a collection of stainless-steel pipes fixed to a base and it remains in good condition.

“The Hippy” by William Koochin, a Canadian sculptor, is located at the west end of the Forest School. This sculpture is carved from a piece of granite and, again, has a title appropriate to the sixties.

• And, of course, we can’t leave the area without mentioning the unfinished sculpture, located at the corner of Spring Road and Colborne Lodge Drive. This particular project was begun by a Toronto artist, Irving Burman, who had two blocks of granite delivered to the sculpture site. Unfortunately, Mr. Burman suffered a breakdown and neither he nor anyone else had any idea of what he had intended to create! The City later prepared a base for the two pieces in an arbitrary orientation. Besides providing a convenient climbing spot for children, it’s fun to speculate what the artist originally had in mind – beavers chewing down a tree, caribou fording a river, your guess!

Author: Ron Allan

NOTE: Here is an update on what has become of two of these neglected sculptures:

Flower Power Blooms Again

The red girder sculpture removed from High Park in 2010 has been restored and given a new home and new life. More details...

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