New sculptures capture the intimate connection between art and music

Sculptures based on local artist’s blind contour drawings

  • Local artist James Culleton turned 60 sketches of a variety of instruments and hundreds of musicians who have performed at the WECC into stainless steel sculptures that were mounted to the front façade of the venue. – Janessa Brunet

The iconic Winnipeg venue the West End Cultural Centre keeps getting more beautiful with age – this time with a new set of steel sculptures by local artist James Culleton adorning the venerable venue’s façade, tying together the creativity of the space visually.

The sculptures, which were unveiled on Saturday, Sept. 25, are part of a process that began when the Ellice Avenue venue started its renovations and posted a call to artists to which Culleton replied.

“Even at that stage I had already drawn hundreds of musicians in live performance, before and after the WECC’s renos, so I felt as though I’d have a lot to contribute,” Culleton said in an e-mail interview. “I suggested to them that not only did I want to recreate their façade for them, but I also want to study them.”

Culleton’s sketches might look unconventional at first. The frenetic movement of the lines and the disproportionate forms appear as if they were part of the music.

“(It’s) a technique where my focus is maintained solely on the subject rather than looking down at the paper. Blind contour drawing is an excellent technique for documenting live performance, as it captures personalities and movement quickly.”

My art focuses on where art and music meet. ... I don’t want these sculptures to take over the look of the façade, but I’d rather have them become part of the façade.

James Culleton, artist

With that in mind, it seems like the perfect match for a venue renowned for its shows as much as its building.

“My work engages the visual dialogue between the old and new buildings of the WECC, and creates a harmony between the two,” said Culleton. “Part of the design uses the shapes of the old church’s stained-glass windows, and the materials chosen reflect some of the new design choices made during the renovations.”

The WECC’s history as a church no doubt helped with acoustics. Its eclectic selections of bands keeps it indispensable and its commitment to the community make it invaluable.

As for Culleton, he is all about connecting. Using his talents, he bridges the audience and performers.

“I don’t want these sculptures to take over the look of the façade, but I’d rather have them become part of the façade,” he said. “My art focuses on where art and music meet ... I think that the thing I like most about music is the people you meet and collaborate with.

“Some of my closest and dearest friends are musicians. In order for music to work, like large design projects, you (need) a bunch of people working in harmony for it to all sound good. I think this piece followed that same principle.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 5 of The Uniter (September 30, 2010)

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