The idea started with trolls in Copenhagen.
Britt Vegsund was considering the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who created large creatures out of wood and placed them around Denmark’s capital in a way that required people to get out and about if they wanted to see them.
“I thought, ‘We should do that here in Lunenburg County,'” said Vegsund, the active living co-ordinator for the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
Vegsund’s mind turned to the local trail network. Armed with a grant from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, she partnered with the Bay to Bay Trails Association, which maintains the trail between Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, and a call for proposals went out for artists.
Gillian Maradyn-Jowsey might spend the majority of her time in a studio working with ceramics, but she saw this as an opportunity to get out and find a different way for people to interact with her art.
Her proposal was to create work that reflects the landscape around it and is also inspired by the way people in the area stack wood to be used in their stoves.
“I was really attracted to this method called holz hausen, which is German for wood house,” said Maradyn-Jowsey. “I thought having several structures based on this pattern would be really interesting.”
The result is three structures, dubbed Riverbank Habitat, ranging in height from 2.4 to 3.6 metres, situated on a piece of land along Martins Brook across from a large footbridge that connects the walking trail. From the bridge, about half way between Mahone Bay and Lunenburg, people are able to stop and take in the pieces.
Maradyn-Jowsey said having some separation between the viewer and the artwork is intentional, in part because she’s hoping the work will serve more than just people using the trail.
“I thought that building these sculptures, small animals can be running through them — maybe storing some food — and eventually, you know, bugs and the weather will eventually break it down and we’ll see how long they stand for.”
After gathering the necessary supplies — eight cords of wood from a local woodlot owner and some fallen trees from the site — Maradyn-Jowsey and a small team assembled the sculptures over a three-week period. Some screws are used to reinforce the structures and long pieces of pine serve as braces.
Yellow, blue and red ceramic discs on the end of some of the logs add a hint of colour.
“In the fall you’ll see a bush that’s quite bare, but it will have maybe some red berries — similar to that,” said Maradyn-Jowsey. “It’s a bit of accent colour.”
Vegsund said people were talking about the project and getting out to see it even before an official opening earlier this month. It’s an experiment she hopes leads to even more people going for a walk and interacting with the art.
“I think it’s more beautiful than anything I anticipated.”