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Photos by Colin Noden.

Recharge your spirit with The Gather-Ring

By Colin Noden on September 26, 2017

Trying to make sense out of your life? The Gather-Ring is a space where you can gain perspective, rediscover your core strengths and heal relationships. It can also be a place of celebration and remembrance. Or, just a place to download a joyous experience from a borosilicate pendant.

That’s quite the promise for a structure planted by a busy intersection, sandwiched between gothic Parliament Hill and the concrete structures on LeBreton Flats. But its creators are hoping you will be drawn in and feel its subtle message.

Artist-Architect (New York) Manuel Baez and Glass Artist Charlynne Lafontaine have built an immersive piece of art designed to inspire and direct your attention. But not to impose a function. As Manuel says, the success of this piece will be determined by how the community incorporates it into its life and rituals.

Professor Baez is inspired by how the people of Canada have adopted the Eternal Flame on Parliament Hill. It too was once a temporary structure and developed into a symbol of national unity. But, the flame is also literally under the nose of Members of Parliament so many gatherings there have a political bent. Manuel hopes The Gather-Ring will draw in other types of activities. He hopes the natural surroundings and design will nurture gatherings of hope and celebration.

The life answers you find will depend on where your attention is directed. This is a space between two eternities. Gaze up and you will feel the infinite possibilities of the future. Look down and you will see the steady growth of our earth, tracing back to the infinity of “Turtle Island,” evoking feelings of endurance, determination, and community.

Stylized canoe beams hold the dream catcher, a tribute to the Algonquin people who used this land and river system before it was industrialized. Perseverance, stewardship, and tapping into the healing power of nature are legacies of the aboriginal symbols in The Gather-Ring.

The artists have tried to build a space where you can take hold of a dream, put it in perspective, and share it with like minded people. Other visitors may wander in during your visit and share your presence on this little patch in the universe. The circular seating makes it hard to ignore each other. It is an opportunity to open yourself up to other life viewpoints. A place for sharing stories.

Behind those benches is a narrow band of wood with 150 growth rings etched into it. You’ll been sitting on the ring of 1867 as you gaze back into two eternities and the hearts of those around you. Look how small our nation’s history is in comparison. This could be a moment of empowerment for you.

This river and this land has an instinct for health and recovery. The beauty below was once an industrial mess. Everything was sacrificed for the building of a nation. But nature persevered, and with proper stewardship, a beautiful city emerged.

Individuals dedicated to the principles which are symbolized in the Gather-Ring structure would be a powerful force in the growth of our nation. It would make this modest structure a beacon of hope.

Manuel and Charlynne are waiting to see what happens now. The true meaning of this piece will only be revealed through its use by you. How do you see yourself using it? A place for vigils and remembrance? To make plans or pacts? To gather and discuss as you take in natural views below? Or a place to declare a vow? If and how it happens will depend on your use of it as a community. As Manuel confided to me, the greatest suspense lies in the months ahead.

The most delightful thing I’ve seen so far is a little girl immediately going to “Turtle Island” and staring straight up into the cosmos. No one instructed her to go there. She just followed her instinct.

Remember that tiny band of 150 rings skirting the benches? You are here, so early in this project we call Canada. What you do matters. The Gather-Ring has been designed to help dreams become reality. Claim one from the glowing borosilicate pendants. And share those dreams with others around you. What kind of Canada do you want to see in the future? Harnessing your talents to a dream can produce wonderful things. In fact, this is how The Gather-Ring came into being.

Manuel and Charlynne asked me to give a big shoutout to Carleton University students Sami Karimi, Guillermo Bourget Morales, Josh Eckert, and Aniq Imtiaz Chaudhry, as well as Tim Priddle of The WoodSource in Ottawa. These people embodied the spirit of the project and made the artists’ dream come true.

Tips to maximize your experience in The Gather-Ring:

  • Include the parkland and paths below in your visit.
  • Come in the evening to experience the lights on the canopy’s pendants.
  • Sit on one of the benches and spend a little quiet time meditating on the etched growth rings of time and observe the lights of eternity reflect on the granite turtle’s shell.
  • Bring someone to connect or reconcile with.
  • Use this place to honour the soul of someone special to you.
  • Gather and invite others in celebrations of hope and growth.

The Gather-Ring will be on exhibit until July 2018. It is the latest piece of public art commissioned by Heritage Canada under the Art in the City Program. The Gather-Ring is located on the Portage Bridge plaza on Wellington Street.