This year is the 30th anniversary of the Spirit Catcher being dedicated on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay. Nothing is more recognizable in the city of Barrie than the beloved structure, but how much do you really know about the piece?
Some people may know by now that the piece was created by sculptor Ron Baird for Expo 86 in Vancouver BC. The Spirit Catcher first rested on False Creek on the west coast before being purchased by an organization and moved to Barrie in hopes of garnering interest in a prominent art gallery for the city.
On September 12 1987, the Spirit Catcher was dedicated on its current location and in 1989 the licensing rights were transferred to the MacLaren Art Gallery to further protect its presentation, reproduction and to control the use of its image. Renee van der Avoird is the associate curator for the MacLaren Art Gallery and says that piece is not only the biggest in the gallery’s collection, but that it is indeed a work of art.
“I think people forget that it’s the hard work and creativity of an artist that created the Spirit Catcher,” said Avoird. “Driving or walking by it everyday one likely forgets that it is an actual piece of art, not just some structure. It’s certainly easy to think that but when you stop and take another look and realize how absolutely beautiful it is and that a lot of work went into it and we just have to maintain its cultural significance.”
If you’re creating logos for pamphlets or events that have the artwork on there, you likely aren’t going about it correctly. Being that the rights are owned by someone, it is obviously illegal to use the image for profit. Avoird reminds people that there is a moral issue as well that should be thought of.
“Clearly everyone knows that you can’t make money off an idea or creation that isn’t yours,” said Avoird. “Morally as well, we need to approve any reproduction too. Its not that we want to be overbearing and controlling, and most times if it’s a not-for-profit organization we’re up for that, but we always need to get a call and we also have a sheet on our website that can be filled out that allows us to take a look and respond back with the appropriate response and/or permission. We like to and need to be consulted is all.”
The MacLaren isn’t just in charge of how the Spirit Catcher is seen as a logo, but also how it is seen to everyone who snaps a picture and stands beside it. Last summer there was some much needed maintenance work done on the iconic structure; just part of keeping it standing for generations to come.
“We have inspections on it every June and last June we were told that it was time to put a little work into it,” said Avoird. “Its very important to make sure when people come to see our works that those pieces are in the best condition they can be in.”
Other works are popping up in the city and are being thought of to bring out from storage for showcasing. The Sea Serpent, another work created by Baird, was unveiled in June of 2016 and continues the theme of the city in becoming a place where the arts community can thrive. There are many other works that are held in storage at the MacLaren and Canada’s 150th birthday may be the year some of them come out.
“We’re so glad that the Spirit Catcher has become a source of civic pride and The Sea Serpent is a really cool thing to see from the lake,” said Avoird. “There is a chance that some other pieces are released this year and we hope that the city enjoys them. I feel its crucial for a city to not only have a gallery but to have one that is full of lively art, a great place to learn and in our case come and have a coffee or a bite to eat with our eatery on location. We really feel we are a hub in the community and want folks to see that too.”
If you’re looking to use the Spirit Catcher as a logo or graphic, contact the MacLaren Art Gallery’s website.