header Eric Neighbour

Artist Statement

Involving the public – Making public art

4,900+ participants since 1987

Eric Neighbour – Vancouver, Canada

An idol of mine once said: “If you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.” I have tried to embrace that sentiment and make each sculpture into an exploration of the unknown. I am happiest when I’m working in the dark and trusting the process. There’s often a moment, early in a project, when pieces are coming together in an embarrassingly ugly fashion. That stage is where the true creativity lies. Everything else is just refinement.


I’m a social person – collaboration is what I do best. Every public art project that I have been awarded has been completed on time, on budget and in collaboration with the stake holders to their complete satisfaction. It’s a delight to focus, as a team, on the common goal of making something beautiful, engaging, durable and relevant.


In some cases, working collaboratively has meant sharing ideas and getting approval from a single client representative. In others, I have worked with larger teams that included client staff, architects, engineers, landscape designers, fabricators and risk management.


In the right situation, a project may benefit from a more public process. I love this process. People get excited when they are able to watch a sculpture being born. Their excitement is infectious and brings a spirit of celebration to the event. The making of the art may become an event in itself, raising the project’s profile as well as the profile of its commissioning organization. It can give the community a chance to get to know the work before it’s installed, and see how much work goes into its construction.


Again, given the right circumstances, a project may benefit further by actually involving the public in the process of creation. In this case, the art event becomes the art as much as the art itself. I have conducted this type of project more than a dozen times, involving up to 1,400 people over several months.

It is possible (I’ve done it repeatedly) to involve public volunteers in every aspect of a project, without losing quality. In fact, their involvement brings new insights and a clearer vision with greater impact. A rare and beautiful thing happens when you begin to let other people really get involved. They get passionately involved.

Many visitors are happy with an hour of hands on labour, but there are always those who catch the project fever. They are the ones who come back day after day, staying to the bitter end, in the freezing cold and the pouring rain. By the end of a project they become accomplished team mates and good friends, helping with fine detail and finishing.

Working concept drawings may be posted at the carving site during a project. As the work evolves, new drawings are placed next to the old ones – so people may experience the evolution of the idea as it happens.

Thank you for your interest,

Eric Signature
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