Favourite local public art piece

Daniel Crump

1. emptyful by Bill Pechet

2. Riley Grae mural

3. Cinematheque bathroom by JD Renaud

Created by Bill Pechet as a part of a Millennium Library Park renovation project, emptyful stands in direct contrast to its neighbour. While the Millennium Library is a hulking brutalist structure, full of sharp edges, flat surfaces and straight lines, emptyful is narrow, with curved sides and a metallic finish.

Despite its small size, emptyful intended to invoke a feeling of open-ended space and the possibility of imagination that emptiness brings.

“When I went to Winnipeg, I felt an open-ended liberation ... Winnipeg has a lot of those empty spaces that are valuable for cities,” Pechet says. “Knowing its position in the Prairies, it’s an area where you can project a lot of imagination into space.”

The piece’s title is meant to embody the liminal space between the emptiness of the vast Prairie environment and the fullness of the people that occupy it. The Prairie environment also informs the piece’s shifting light show.

In the summer, the lights of emptyful project cool colours, matched with a misting machine to provide respite during the scourging heat.

Come winter, the piece shifts as its lights project warm colours, referencing a backyard fire pit that brings people in to feel the warmth.

Spending money on public art can be contentious, but Pechet’s piece shows what filling these empty spaces can do.

“I think a well-rounded society has many, many options for the population that provide both things considered useful and things that spark the imagination,” Pechet says. “If we only devote money to things that are classically utilitarian or arguable, we omit a large part of our brains, full of imagination.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 30, 2023)

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