The giant acorn in Joel Weeks Park is looking a bit neglected, now that its acolyte squirrels have disappeared.
One of the things Toronto does well is commission talented artists to add whimsical touches when developing new park spaces, providing food for thought and conversation pieces to engage park-goers.
One of the best examples is Berczy Park, between Wellington and Front Sts., just east of Yonge St., It’s where a massive fountain is surrounded by statues of dogs with water spurting out of their mouths.
The statuary in Joel Weeks Park, near Broadview Ave. and Queen St., is no less compelling. It includes a beaver and a puffy-tailed fox perched on rocks that are carved in bas relief with fish and other wildlife.
But the star of the show is a huge acorn sculpted from rock near Thompson St., It is seated on a square granite base with a squirrel on each corner, their paws raised to the acorn in exaltation.
We knew nothing of it until we got a note from Zeesy Powers, saying she was at the park recently “and was sad to see that the squirrels worshipping the giant acorn were missing.
“It’s such a lovely work of art, and a shame to have it damaged like this.”
We went there and found two holes in each corner of the base, where the squirrels appear to have been attached before they vanished.
A guy in the park confirmed that one of the squirrels went missing a few months ago, and were soon followed by the other three. He added that he was bothered by what appeared to be wanton vandalism.
We researched it and found out it was created by Mary Anne Barkhouse, an Indigenous artist acclaimed for her sculptures and jewelry, who’s based in Haliburton.
“If those squirrels were indeed vandalized, it would be a sad day,” said Barkhouse in an email.
Then a sad day it is.
STATUS: We asked the city what happened and got the following reply from Sally Han, manager of cultural partnerships with the city’s economic development division: “Last year, one of the sculpture’s four bronze squirrels was vandalized. The city was aware of the damage and was able to locate the stolen squirrel. The city has contracted a professional art conservator to lengthen the posts of all four squirrels to make their removal more difficult and reaffix them to the granite nut pedestal. This work is currently underway and the squirrels should be returned to the sculpture before autumn.”
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