Ron Baird

Spirit Catcher, City of Barrie by Artist Ron Baird

Public Art bestows a sense of place; strengthening connections between people and place and is integral in the fostering of a community’s identity. It celebrates the social, historical and cultural threads of the community, and honors the natural and urban environments. Inspiring and accessible to all, a strong and vibrant collection of public art promotes healthy, vibrant and liveable communities.

The expression of public art offers opportunity for artists to make significant contribution to the historical reflection, and preservation, of a place. Ron Baird’s Spirit Catcher, originally designed for a waterfront site at EXPO ‘86 in Vancouver, has stood proudly over Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie, Ontario since 1987, and has provided a backdrop for countless memorable moments in time.

“No other piece I have created has connected with the public as deeply as Spirit Catcher has.” Says Baird. “I’m astounded and delighted by people taking ownership of the Spirit Catcher.” – Ron Baird, Sculptor

Ron is Canada’s most successful sculptor to commission. Incredibly, he has executed over 200 public works since graduating from the Ontario College of Art in 1964. Making large works excites him, especially if they have mechanical components. Lately most of his projects have been executed in stainless steel a medium he loves for its “versatility, permanence, and when polished, its chameleon like ability to take on the changing colours that surround it.”

Ron went on tell us that people do a myriad of activities at the base of the Spirit Catcher, like get married, geocache and hold private ceremonies. He has seen images of his iconic sculpture on trucks, on TV, on a board game, on t-shirts, beer mugs, hooked rugs, stained glass, and even tattooed on a bum. (What?! That’s hilarious!) He said “It’s like watching your child who grows up and starts doing all sorts of crazy unexpected stuff without asking you if it’s ok.” And at the same time, it’s very representative of the feelings of attachment people have to art that exists in their communities. Public art inspires civic ownership, and pride of one’s place.

Spirit Clock, City of Barrie by Artist Ron Baird

Understanding how greatly public art transforms our communities, Pratt Homes is championing this endeavour by transforming their Yonge Station residential community into an opportunity for engagement, interaction and pride in one’s everyday environment. They recently installed Ron’s second large kinetic sculpture in Barrie, Spirit Clock.

RB: I worked closely with Karen Pratt to realise her vision of integrating public art into her project to culturally stamp it with a specific invented historic theme.  The Spirit Clock, on the corner of Yonge and Madeline, dances and plays tunes and flashes coloured lights on the hour.

If you have an opportunity, do try to go by the Spirit Clock at the top of the hour. There are eight original compositions for each season in its repertoire, composed by artists Denis Keldie and Steve Briggs. ‘Wheelie’, his latest kinetic opus is a whimsical work which references the age of industrial steam. Ron gave away that he and Karen are “cooking up some more surprises for the residents of Yonge Station and passersby in the near future”. We’re excited to see whats next!

November will see another installation, Ron’s ‘Jig Rig’ will be installed at Innisfil’s new Hydro building, on Yonge Street. He is also creating a large and mysterious work for a public park in Markham and will be sending a garden sized piece to Massachusetts later next month. I encourage you to visit Ron’s website to see his amazing work.

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Spirit Catcher image – Jennifer Klementti

Spirit Clock image courtesy of Ron Baird

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