Yellowknifers take sculptor’s zoetrope for a spin

Yellowknifers take sculptor’s zoetrope for a spin
LeBlond works inside the machine, adjusting an Old Town tableau by Alison McCreesh that brings to life ravens, dogs and sailboats.Photo: Bill Braden.

From the outside, Philippe Leblond’s zoetrope looks like a space capsule that crashed to Earth, but spin the crank, look through the peephole and the Yellowknife skyline flickers to life with ravens, boats and foxes.

“That’s cool,” exclaimed Talia Ehrlith, among the first of dozens of people turning out last Thursday to experience the newest piece of public art on the city hall plaza.

“It’s really interesting,” Margaret Ross, a visitor from Nova Scotia, said. “I was dying to see it. I love community participation in art projects.”

Whitehorse sculptor Leblond repurposed the hull of a fuel vault and gears stripped from a conveyor that once unloaded fish at the Government Dock for the machine that creates the illusion of moving pictures.

“I’m flattered by the response,” Leblond said, surveying the crowd waiting for a look at his work. “It’s gone way beyond what I expected when I was first approached. It gave me an opportunity to meet a lot of people.”

A dozen Yellowknife artists collaborated with Leblond, painting the background scenes for the zoetrope and some elements that give the city a distinctive flavour: ravens, foxes, a vintage Bombardier and sailboats flicker past a viewer.

Whitehorse sculptor Philippe Leblond and ARCC director Alison McCreesh unveil the newest public art work on Yellowknife’s city plaza.

Photo: Jack Danylchuk

Whitehorse sculptor Philippe Leblond and ARCC director Alison McCreesh unveil the newest public art work on Yellowknife’s city plaza.

Alison McCreesh, director of the Artist Run Community Centre that sponsored the project with a $14,000 grant from Education, Employment and Culture, was gratified to see it come together.

“I wrote the grant proposal, so it’s fun to see it installed on a permanent base,” said McCreesh, who thinks the community received full value for the grant money.

“We got lectures out of Philippe, a soldering workshop, a design workshop and covered his transportation and accommodation,” she said.

“The city was really helpful,” she added, providing space for Leblond’s school bus, which served as a mobile workshop, running power to the site and pouring a cement base for the zoetrope.

The last step is paint for the zoetrope, which is protected with a primer coat. Leblond suggested barber pole stripes, but others want to repeat the interior scene.

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