Battlefield Park Public Art Project

Project award

The artwork, installed May 2014, consists of four, nine-foot-high granite eagle figures inscribed with symbols and text arranged on a circular plaza. The artist uses interpretations of the cultural traditions of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek communities to address the theme of healing and reconciliation. The work was commissioned as part of the City of Hamilton’s War of 1812 Bicentennial commemoration.

About the artist

David M. General is Oneida and a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario. David’s career as a full time artist began in 1980 and for 30 years he worked and developed a distinctive style, working mainly in marble and bronze. David also served several years on the Six Nations Elected Council, first as a Councillor and then as Elected Chief from 2004 to 2007 among other career highlights.

A volunteer jury of citizens, artists and aboriginal community representatives selected General’s work The Eagles Among Us as the winning entry in the Battlefield Park Public Art Competition in 2013.

Public consultation results

Public Consultation took place from late March to April 14, 2013.

482 people provided their preferred selection as follows:

  • 43% for The Eagles Among Us (Artist: David M. General)
  • 51% for The Spirit of John Norton 2014 (Artist: Gino Cavicchioli)
  • 5% for Wampum Belt Structure and Medicine Wheel Plaza (Artist: Vilnis Cultural Design Works)
  • 1% for None of the above.

Review the Public Consultation Comments (PDF, 100 KB)
Review the Comments received from elementary students (PDF, 1.87 MB)

Reports

Background

This report is an overview of the discussion and decision of the volunteer citizen jury which met at Battlefield Park on the evening of Thursday April 25, 2012 to determine which of the three short-listed proposals should be awarded the commission. Jury members reviewed the submissions in terms of technical issues, artistic excellence, response to context, aboriginal community history, public consultation results and artist response to the following competition theme: 

Public art at Battlefield Park will interpret the meanings and outcomes of the Battle of Stoney Creek and the War of 1812 focusing on healing and reconciliation in a way that is meaningful and respectful both to the aboriginal community and the citizens of Hamilton. 

Award

After a great deal of discussion about various aspects of the short-listed proposals and the competition requirements, the jury assigned the highest score to The Eagles Among Us by David M. General. The commission for the work will therefore be awarded to David M. General. 

Jury comments

The jury recognized the efforts of all of the artists that made submissions to the competition. Members acknowledged that opening personal ideas, opinions and talents to public scrutiny can be difficult for artists. The jury thanks all of the artists that shared their ideas about this important subject by submitting to this competition. 

The Eagles Among Us by David M. General
The jury found this work to be the most conceptually rich of the proposals. The relationship between the four eagle figures creates an interactive and experiential aspect to the work that illustrates the competition theme of reconciliation and healing in a universal and instinctive way. This relationship continues at the detail level with the various symbols and text inscribed on each figure. This creates a richness that will encourage exploration and reflection, appeal to a diverse range of people and provide many unique opportunities for interpretation by museum staff. Several jurors and members of the public were initially concerned with the bright colours proposed by the artist but when they understood the work was to be created from four types of natural stone (granite) and that the colours presented were only diagrammatic they were more comfortable with the work. Although it was noted that this work was not a traditional piece or the type of work typically placed at heritage sites, the jury felt that it was appropriate given that it was not located directly adjacent to one of the heritage features on the site, that the use of granite gives it a memorial character in keeping with the commemorative aspects of the park and this it is of a scale visible from the street while not over whelming the other features of the park. 

The Spirit of John Norton 2014 by Gino Cavicchioli
The jury immediately recognized and commended the skill and talent of Mr. Cavicchioli as a sculptor. Although a beautiful work they noted it depends on the story of John Norton for its connection to the site and competition theme. The historian on the jury noted that John Norton was an important figure in the War of 1812. He was part Scottish and part aboriginal, was present at the Battle of Stoney Creek and was well respected by the aboriginal community and the British at the time of the battle. It was also noted that John Norton’s legacy is not well defined in the aboriginal community today. Due to events later in his life, many in the aboriginal community see him as a much more complex figure than the hero or peacemaker as implied by this work. Although the jury agreed that this was an appropriate site for a monument dedicated to John Norton and that his story deserves more attention, the majority felt that this proposal presented a limited interpretation of the competition theme and the story of John Norton. The jury noted that the proposed location of the work, its dark colour and the lack of pathways or landscaping around the work may limit its visibility from the street. The jury also felt that without a description of the life of John Norton, which the artist indicated he was reluctant to include, the work would not be as meaningful or impactful to the casual visitor to the site as perhaps intended by the artist. 

Wampum Belt Structure and Medicine Wheel Plaza by Vilnis Cultural Design Works
The jury found that this work was very well developed from a technical perspective. The proposal employs many of the same symbols and ideas as the Eagles Among Us however they are not as well developed. The proposal features a wall or screen which was not seen as welcoming or interactive as the design proposed by winning proposal. 

The jury

  • Al Bridge - Friends of Battlefield Park
  • Tobi Bruce - City of Hamilton Arts Advisory Commission/ Senior Curator AGH
  • Les Drysdale - Artist/ City of Hamilton Public Art Competition winner
  • James Elliott - Historian and Author
  • Tom Hill - Aboriginal Artist and Curator
  • Yvonne Maracle - Artist/ Hamilton Executive Directors’ Aboriginal Coalition
  • Joseph Trombetta - Titan Mortgages/ Stoney Creek B.I.A.
  • Craig Williams - Artist/ Battle of Stoney Creek Re-enactors 

Advisors to the jury

  • Rick Hill - Six Nations Legacy Consortium
  • Keith Jamison - Six Nations Legacy Consortium
  • Marnie Maslin - City of Hamilton, Curatorial Assistant Battlefield House Museum
  • Susan Ramsay - City of Hamilton, Curator Battlefield House Museum
  • Kara Bunn - City of Hamilton Landscape Architect, Public Works
  • Therese Charbonneau - City of Hamilton Conservator, Tourism and Culture
  • Meghan House - City of Hamilton Heritage Planner, Planning
  • Ken Coit (Facilitator) - City of Hamilton Public Art Coordinator, Tourism and Culture

Contact us

Ken Coit - Program Manager Public Art and Projects
Tourism & Culture Division, City of Hamilton
28 James Street North
Phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 6281
Email: ken.coit@hamilton.ca