For Chantal Rousseau, discovering the breadth of local wildlife hasn’t only been a learning experience — it’s put her behind the city’s latest public art installation.
“There’s something quite wonderful about realizing there’s a huge diversity of birds in the city,” Rousseau said.
The City of Kingston unveiled on Tuesday a public art installation across from City Hall on Brock Street, featuring Rousseau’s watercolour paintings of the various birds that occupy Kingston. The exhibition — which is a part of the city’s “Paved Paradise” project, a public art initiative that’s in its third year — is called “Some of the Many Birds of Kingston,” showcasing the wide variety of birds that live in the area.
In a news release, Colin Wiginton, cultural director at the City of Kingston, said Rousseau’s work “seems particularly relevant this year as we’ve seen a resurgence of wildlife in lots of different places as a result of reduced human traffic.”
Rousseau, a resident of Kingston for 10 years and a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art, believes the exhibit highlights the subtle diversity in wildlife Kingston possesses, which is something she discovered shortly before deciding to embark on the project.
“(It’s) partly a play on the idea that we take these birds around us for granted, but at the same time I was amazed to find out there are 13 varieties of sparrows in Kingston,” Rousseau said.
The installation features seven panels of Rousseau’s watercolour paintings of various bird species, which was digitized and printed onto the boards. Each board showcases a different bird species, each with its name listed underneath.
The first four panels feature 16 types of sparrows, while the fifth and sixth exhibit flycatchers, pewees, and phoebes. The seventh panel will feature four types of warblers.
The exhibit currently doesn’t appear fully finished, as it’s expected to be completely installed by Aug. 7.
An artist for 25 years, the project is Rousseau’s first foray into public art, an experience she said has been a unique contrast to creating art for showings and events.
“It’s a great opportunity for artists to have a lower budget, lower stake opportunity to actually learn how to do public art,” she said.
To create the exhibit, Rousseau sourced photos of the bird species from the internet and hand-painted them in water colour, which are done in the style of early field guides. From there, she scanned them and sent the copies to the city, where they were printed commercially.
At the end of the day, Rousseau feels the exhibit is an opportunity for Kingston to celebrate the wildlife diversity that’s less apparent to the untrained eye.
“There’s actually huge and wonderful diversity,” she said, “so it’s a celebration of that.”