The Wilson Street Public Art Project

Sudden Garden by Robert Cram and Eldon Garnet

Photo by Nathan Cyprys

Robert Cram and Eldon Garnet were commissioned to create the Wilson Street public art project — a permanent, outdoor art installation — at the corner of Wilson and Gordon streets.

This sculptural installation, entitled Sudden Garden, brings together wilderness and civilization – nature and the urban.

The polished bronze deer speak to the continuing vitality of the region and our shared past and future. They are a symbol of gentleness and innocence and represent a community living together both in the wilderness of the past and the present urban moment.

Embedded in the sculptural bodies of three of the four deer are simple architectural shapes referencing the Basilica of Our Lady, John Galt’s home – the historic Priory residence – and Guelph Farmers’ Market. At the tail section in one of the deer there is an empty sphere, referencing the now absent Carnegie Library.

4 statues of deer in front of Downtown Guelph sign

Photo by Nathan Cyprys

Beginning closest to Gordon Street, the deer are presented progressively emerging from the ground. It appears that the site is on a slope physically and metaphorically, beginning in the past and inclined to the present, sloping from the street up to the Farmers’ Market. The deer are placed this way to remind us that nature is precarious, and that without stewardship, it is in jeopardy.

3 statues of deer

Photo by Nathan Cyprys

Surrounded by routes for multiple modes of transportation – public transit, train, car, bicycle, pedestrian – the site is energized by constant movement. The polished bronze deer will simultaneously serve as a stationary, stable icon while physically reflecting the surrounding area and its perpetual movement.

4 statues of deer in front of Downtown Guelph sign

Photo by Nathan Cyprys

About the artists

Robert Cram and Eldon Garnet are a Toronto-based collaborative team.

Eldon is a photo-based artist, sculptor, writer and professor at OCAD University. Eldon earned his Bachelor of Arts in literature and philosophy from the University of Toronto and his Master of Arts in English literature from York University.

Robert is a sculptor and landscape architect. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Carlton University, his Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph, and a Master of Fine Art from OCAD University.


This art project is a unique opportunity to raise the profile of an important intersection in the heart of the city of Guelph.

Artworks in a variety of media and installation methods will be considered. Safety, durability, maintenance requirements, vandalism resistance and exposure to sunlight and variations in weather conditions must be considered due to the public nature and usage of the site.

Artist(s) should have experience creating artworks for public spaces, be able to work within the parameters of the site and have a history of working within set budgets and timelines.

The artwork in this space should celebrate community spirit and establish a sense of arrival and a signature presence. The design of the artwork should be free-standing and should take into account the neighbourhood’s identity and the cultural, historical and natural traits of the site.

The total, all-inclusive project budget for this artwork commission is $90,000 and includes, but is not limited to, all costs associated with the creation and implementation of the public art project. This commission is funded through the City’s Public Art Reserve Fund which was established in 2011 with the purpose of funding the acquisition and maintenance of public art.

Selection process

This was a two-stage commissioned art project:

  1. Request for Pre-Qualifications (RFPQ) where artists (individuals or teams) submit their resume and references, digital images of past works, and a letter that outlines their preliminary vision for the project. Three finalists were chosen by the selection committee.
  2. Each of the three finalists received a $1,500 honorarium to develop their final concepts followed by an interview and presentation opportunity.

All applications submitted under the RFPQ process were reviewed by a specially-convened, independent selection committee that included five representatives:

  • Duncan Bates, Senior Designer (Diamond Schmitt Architects)
  • Chelsea Brant, Program Coordinator of the Aboriginal Resource Centre at the University of Guelph
  • Robert Enright, Research Professor in Art Theory and Criticism, University of Guelph, and Senior Contributing Editor, Border Crossings
  • Ted Fullerton. Artist, Sculptor
  • Sean Kelly. Director of the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design & Rural Development

The committee recommended Robert Cram and Eldon Garnet to the City’s Council-appointed Public Art Advisory Committee who then passed a motion in favour awarding the project.

For more information

Jen Rafter, Cultural Program and Event Coordinator
Culture, Tourism and Community Investment, Public Services
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2629
[email protected]