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Living sculptures grace Columbia Ave as Communities in Bloom celebrates 10 years in Castlegar

They’re the perfect marriage of two of Castlegar’s most successful programs, Communities in Bloom (CiB) and Sculpture Walk: Eco-sculptures are living pieces of art, forms filled with thousands of plants to create stunning 3-D figures that shift and change as the plants within them grow.

As residents and tourists wander through town enjoying the 33 new Sculpture Walk pieces (see photo gallery below) on display (along with many from previous years that have been purchased or leased by local businesses and the city itself), they’re also in for a special treat: four eco-sculptures that embody the best of both initiatives.

One, an eagle with a 14-foot wingspan, can be seen in front of the Pioneer Arena, while the eagle in front of Mike’s RV seems to sternly watch traffic as it passes on Columbia Avenue. Farther south on Columbia, in a flowerbed created and tended by CiB, are two whimsical eco-sculpture frogs named Leonardo and Donatello. There’s also the form of a butterfly at the interchange beside Common Grounds that is packed with growing medium, but hasn’t been planted because there’s an issue with watering the plants properly in that location. Instead, the form has been covered by a hand-felted jacked made by a B.C. artist.

“They just arrived and we just installed them this weekend,” said Darlene Kalawsky, chair of Castlegar CiB (and chair of BC CiB), adding the sculptures are created in Burnaby, where the eco-sculpture program was developed. “We’re very fortunate to have them here – we pay for the rental and freight in and out, and the cost is minimal compared to the incredible impact they have.”

Burnaby has many such sculptures in its public places – including an edible one in the shape of a race car in front of the youth centre, planted with vegetables. The program promotes everything from public art to horticulture, environmental stewardship and community pride – not to mention the economic return from a significant tourism draw.

Kalawsky said Castlegar’s eco-sculptures will stay until probably late September, then be shipped back to Burnaby, where the gentler climate will allow them to weather the winter months (as happened with last year’s bear eco-sculpture that was installed in front of Mike’s RV).

“To me, it’s fascinating and exciting, giving people another type of art to appreciate,” Kalawsky said. “We’re really excited to be part of it, and they (Burnaby) were really excited to be a part of our international CiB win last year.

“Next year, we’re going to have a youth project at either Blueberry Creek or Kinnaird school to involve students in planting a form,” she added.

 Kalawsky has worked relentlessly to promote Castlegar’s CiB program since its inception 10 years ago. She said CiB has followed and supported Sculpture Walk from the very beginning as well, since the two programs dovetail on so many levels, and the eco-sculpture program is a brilliant next step to enhance and promote both.

This is but one way CCiB is celebrating its 10th anniversary: Kalawsky said they are also installing a Canadian flag on a 40-foot pole on the walkway area heading to Robson, with inscriptions of the names of community volunteers and donours.

“That’s our theme, celebrating volunteerism,” she said. “We are also undertaking our Art Diversity project with a Columbia Basin Trust Youth Action grant and the Stanley Humphries art program.”

This will see panels of artwork done by local youth installed in public areas such as along Columbia Avenue.

“They are amazing, high-end quality work,” she said. “We’re hoping this will spur on other artwork and projects in our community.”

They’re also installing a vignette of sculptures in front of the Chamber of Commerce, with a bench, a driftwood harp and bass violin, creating the feel of a jazz rendering, called “Take Five”.

Having won the city, first the coveted five-bloom designation then the international category in CiB competition, Castlegar’s CiB is this year kicking it up a notch and entering a new international category called the Circle of Excellence. Kalawsky says this is one step away from the pinnacle, the highest designation a community can have in CiB, which is Grand Champion.

The CiB judges will be in town July 26, 27 and 28 this year.