A pod of life size replica whales located in Centennial Square moves out starting Wednesday to make room for the Lights of Wonder installation to be held this December.
Christopher Porter, of WildVision Edutainment and creator of the play structure, doesn’t want to see the whales put into storage and says the city should make use of the exhibit in a different space.
“When you have an exhibit that works … that has a huge engagement rate and a huge iconic presence without much effort or cost — those types of exhibits need to be [preserved],” Porter says.
The City of Victoria planned to move the Follow the Pod orca play structure to the city’s parks yard for the winter and are in the process of reviewing possible alternative locations.
Porter won a competition in 2017 put on by the City of Victoria and the Downtown Business Association in which people were invited to submit concepts for a pop-up play feature and they would cover the costs up to $55,000. Disputes over who would pay for the mats that surround the structure ensued. Porter says he’s personally shelled out $40,000 for them.
He says if he’s got to find a new home for the mats, why not find a new home for the whales?
This week he posted on his Facebook page asking friends to help save the whales and find a new home for the installation, which saw comments suggesting they be taken to Tofino. Josie Osborne, mayor of Tofino, even suggested Porter write their Public Art Committee.
“We’re down to 72 [resident] whales. When those whales were installed we were at 77, so we’ve lost five since … I just don’t want to see another five lost while they’re stored,” Porter says. “Other cities are interested if the City of Victoria is just going to store them.”
This is something Sheldon Johnson, head of engagement for the city, says can’t happen, as the city owns the structure and have the authority to move it wherever they choose, adding it costs the city nothing to store the structure.
According to Johnson it is still to be determined where the installation will land, either back in the square or in a new location in spring 2020, adding that although there are no current plans for public consultation on the whale’s new home he wouldn’t be surprised if the city moves in that direction as spring approaches.
The removal and relocation of the whales will take one to two days and city staff say there will be no impact to traffic, cycling or pedestrian flow in the area.