Hands-on art

There’s no stuffy “hands-off” rule when it comes to art by Trenton Leach.

There’s no stuffy “hands-off” rule when it comes to art by Trenton Leach.

His dimensional creations invite touching through the use of unusual elements like rolling glass marbles.

“I do tactile. Everything I do, I try to make interactive,” said the Red Deer artist, best known for creating Fish Bowl. The large metal-and-glass public art sculpture, made up of more than 12,000 movable parts, stands in the main hallway at G.H. Dawe Community Centre, near the pool.

With two panels of colourful marbles taking on a brilliant stained-glass appearance when light shines through its goldfish design, Fish Bowl is a magnet for little hands.

Children might find Leach’s next public art project similarly appealing.

He plans to create a metal framed sculpture near the Sylvan Lake pier that resembles the outline of the old Varsity dance hall. The local venue was a Sylvan Lake institution from the late 1930s. It was frequented by several generations of big band, blues and jazz greats before being torn down in 1979.

Within his four-by-six metre rectangular outline of the Varsity will stand life-sized wire-framed musical instruments — a stand-up bass, drums, trumpet and saxophone. After the sculpture is installed in May, kids can stand “inside” the Varsity and pretend to play the instruments, said Leach.

“You’ll feel like you’re in a room with no walls or a ceiling” that slopes down in perspective towards the lake, added the sculptor, who hopes the sculpture reminds passersby of an interesting period in the resort town’s past.

Renowned Edmonton saxophonist P.J. Perry honed his musical chops by playing seven nights a week at the Varsity, which was owned by his father, Paul Perry, for some years. The younger Perry would regularly get to jam with visiting blues greats from St. Louis or Kansas City and Canadian masters, including trumpeter Bobby Hales.

Besides paying homage to local history, the interactive sculpture will hopefully turn more people on to public art, said Leach. “Maybe it will help open people’s eyes to something they may not be used to …”

The City of Red Deer, like some other municipalities, spends about one per cent of the budget for new construction projects on art. And Leach believes this is good value since public art not only beautifies the community, but becomes a sort of cultural equalizer by giving those who don’t live near big city galleries a chance to see something interesting, creative — even mind-expanding.

He knows there’s a local appreciation for artistry. Even Central Albertans who don’t consider themselves art connoisseurs have been helping support Leach by asking him to create custom-made stairway railings, stained-glass windows, decorative gates, lighting fixtures, accent sculptures and other features for their homes.

“A lot of what I do is functional art,” said the 43-year-old, who runs his Rogue Art and Design Studio with his partner, photographer Holly Elliott.

Leach figures he’s been working full-time in art since winning the Dawe project in 2010. “My (work) is for people who appreciate something different.”

Many of his clients have jobs in the oil services field and own high-end homes. But the trained electrician, who taught himself to work with glass and metalwork in his mid-20s, also takes on smaller, commissions — like creating a light-catcher with pressed flowers to commemorate the memory of a client’s deceased loved one.

When he has time, he enjoys tackling projects that spring from his own imagination and present various problem-solving challenges — like making unusual mood lights in the shape of musical instruments.

Leach’s first sculpture of a wire guitar was purchased by his roommate. The artist said he’s always loved the lyrical form of instruments, “they’re like a piece of art.”

Some of his instrumental pieces — including his sold-out 2008 series of metal-and-glass replicas of guitars used by female performers, including Sue Foley, Ellen McIlwaine, Romi Mayes and Roxanne Potvin — “are like an ode to the musicians themselves.”

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Rural transit service rolled out

2A South Regional Transit will link Innisfail and Penhold with Red Deer

Some Red Deer waste collection schedules change due to holiday season

Tuesday collections will be moved for two weeks

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport’s prospects are looking up for 2019

Ultra-low-cost passenger service is on the horizon

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Most Read