Tom Dean’s “A Peaceable Kingdom”

Written by: Diego Rodriquez and Sophie Bégin

Some months ago I found myself walking looking for a bank near the Kingsway and Knight intersection. A fairly new housing development in the south east corner of the intersection had one. Surprisingly this new housing society was also home of a new Vancouver Public Library branch. I walked into the inner courtyard of the complex, which is easily accessible from the sidewalk, to find myself surrounded by several sculptures depicting different animals in, what seemed to me, a very peculiar narrative. Animals were were unusually paired up: a kid goat resting pleasantly atop a big cat, a serpent and a pig were embracing leisurely, a toddler and a bear cub sat together like friends. All these animals seemed to be frozen in the middle of some strange narrative I couldn’t piece together. As soon as I inspected all of the sculptures on the courtyard several questions came to my mind. All these pieces are a part of a public space that has been made public as it is open to anyone walking around but are still located in the complex’s b0undaries. Who had commissioned it? Who was the artist? How did they end up there? I’m sure I’m not the only one who, while looking at public art, wonders about this.

Well, answers to these questions can be found in the City of Vancouver Cultural Services web page. I learned there for example, that there is this “rule”, which dictates that for any major private sector rezoning of land, that exceeds 100,000 sq. ft, the developers are required to contribute to the city “$1.81 (2009 rate) per buildable (FSR) foot to a Public Art process approved by the City.”. There are some options this “rule” gives the developers in order to fulfill this commitment. Not many Vancouver residents know it is this “rule” that has allowed much of the public art pieces in the City to be created, and neither did I know before visiting the Cultural Services webpage. The site is full of useful information like this which, if you are an artist or maybe simply love the great art embellishing our city, could be of much use and interest.

Well the art piece that sparked all this questions is Tom Dean‘s “A Peaceable Kingdom” from 2008 (I also learned this through the entry in the Public Art Registry) The piece is based on the idea of a place where all animals live together in peace and harmony, a place where they coexist together and the predator-prey relationship is completely gone. As a public art piece I personally see it as an analogy of life in the city. This wide array of different animals are coexisting peacefully together in a public place, just like we all coexist together in the city. The sculptures are live sized and made out of bronze and seem to be aware and comfortable in their location and surrounding. This is a piece that has remained as one of my favorites since I accidentally came upon it, and I seriously recommend a personal visit as the pictures ahead do not  serve justice.

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