Michael Belmore, an accomplished Anishinaabe artist, has been selected to create a free-standing sculpture that will be installed at the Canadian Port of Entry as one of the project’s Public Art commissions. The stand-alone piece will celebrate and express the heritage and culture of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, visible to travellers as they move through the Port of Entry. The concept, still under development will be shared at a later date, with installation anticipated before the end of 2023.
With the bridge project located on the traditional lands of the Three Fires Confederacy, consisting of the Ojibwa, Odawa and Pottawatomi nations, Belmore met with representatives from Caldwell First Nation and Walpole Island First Nation earlier this year to collaborate and ensure the artwork would reflect images symbolic of local Indigenous peoples.
“For the Three Fires people, our teaching and our understanding comes from this place on which we build our lives,” says Belmore. At times my work may seem disjointed, yet the reality is that together my work and processes speak about the environment, about land, about water, and what it is to be Anishinaabe.”
Belmore hails from northern Ontario and is an internationally recognized artist with over 25 years of experience. His work is found in permanent collections in institutions across North America including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian Institute. He was chosen for the Public Art commission following an extensive selection process that began in 2018. The selection committee was comprised of project aesthetics staff and external art experts and included Indigenous representation.
The commission also includes a mentorship opportunity for an Indigenous youth to work alongside Belmore. The mentorship aspect is being developed in consultation with Belmore, Walpole Island First Nation and Caldwell First Nation.
Public art and the Gordie Howe International Bridge project
Belmore’s work is one of three Public Art commissions to be incorporated into the Gordie Howe International Bridge project, along with the artistic façade at the Canadian Port of Entry, designed by Sara Graham, and dynamic bridge lighting.
The Public Art commissions originated as an outcome of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) study.
Public Art is part of the project’s broader Visual Art Program, which aims to create memorable, high-quality works of art consistent with the international importance of the bridge and to celebrate and promote creativity and friendship between Canada and the US. This also includes a commemorative art feature, along with several local art-related initiatives funded through the Community Benefits Plan.