There have been some rabbits let out at Beaver Hills Park. Ranging between eight and 12 feet tall, these sculptures are made from wood and a thin paper-like material that shows off the light. The rabbits are all of different shapes and sizes — there is the wâpos (which is Cree for rabbit), a tall, alert rabbit, two amorous crouching ones, a strong one, a chubby one and one surrounded by flowers.
The sculptures were designed by Indigenous artist and Top 40 Under 40 alumnus Jason Carter, who in 2009 installed the seven northern beavers along Jasper Ave. The beavers were one of his first public art installations, and coming back to install Wâpos was “like coming home,” he says.
The sculptures wind through Amiskwaskahegan (Beaver Hills Park), telling a short self-guided story of two rabbits named Little and Small.
“Honestly we wanted to create a story that really speaks to the year we’ve had and what we hope that people who walk through this sense,” says Bridget Ryan, creative director and Carter’s business partner in their production company, Rabbit in the Yard.
The hope is for the rabbits to spark a sense of optimism, luck, prosperity, wisdom and playfulness. The 40 smaller rabbits symbolize springtime and the reason there are so many of them is because… well, they are rabbits.
For Carter, rabbits have been a constant source of inspiration. “The first time I picked up a hammer and chisel, I carved a rabbit. And I’ve been chasing that rabbit ever since,” he says. The natural sounds added in also play a big role in the exhibition. If you listen closely, you might hear an owl hoot. “You’ll hear it every 30 seconds, because owls keep away pigeons,” Ryan says, adding that she’s had to shoo away quite a few in order to keep the sculptures clean.
In Cree and in many other cultures, the rabbit is seen as a trickster, a theme that is explored by the Rabbit in the Yard Production Company in their book, Who is Boo? “Rabbit is a character known to pivot, shape shift, keep ‘creating’ so that they may keep surviving,” Carter says. Ryan adds that rabbits give a feeling of being on the right path, no matter where you see them.
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The exhibition is open from March 25 to April 3 and is part of Downtown Spark, a group collaboration with the Downtown Business Association, Explore Edmonton, Edmonton Arts Council, City of Edmonton and Western Economic Diversification. In order to follow the public health and safety measures outlined by Alberta Health Services, the park is fenced off. Book a free ticket to gain access during your time slot.