Around the Region


Public art restored on the ION rails   4 min read

Oct 4, 2023 3 min

Public art restored on the ION rails   4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cleaning public art can be an art form in its own right.

When two pieces along the ION light rail were recently vandalized with graffiti, Region of Waterloo staff took action. We know a prompt repair can be the most effective deterrent against future damage.

“shaping Residency,” located at the Fairway ION station, had fallen victim to vandalism from spray paint and sticker residue. Created by artist Stephen Cruise, this work features two brightly painted bird sculptures. It was inspired by the Fraktur drawing tradition of the early Mennonite settlers of Waterloo Region from Pennsylvania.

Farther down the ION tracks, “The Passenger” by artist Brandon Vickerd had also been vandalized recently, with graffiti tags in both black permanent and paint marker. This sculpture is a striking collection of bronzed woodland creatures that together take on a human-like shape. It’s located at the Research and Technology ION station, near Laurel Trail.

The Region of Waterloo’s public art team reached out to the artists to let them know about the damage, and then devised a restoration plan.

This type of clean-up can be more complex than it seems. First, staff need to identify what material they’re working with, and any substances or coatings added to safeguard the art from the elements.

Chemical cleanings can cloud the colours of the artwork. So, before “shaping Residency” received its full cleaning, the product was tested on the bird’s underbelly. From there, it was applied slowly and carefully. The artwork was soon looking as good as new.

“The Passenger” got a similar treatment. Chemicals gently rubbed away the permanent and paint marker, providing a fresh and clean surface. The sculpture was then resealed in a protective wax.

As this work was being done, passersby were curious to watch. These pieces of art in busy public areas have become a part of the landscape of people’s daily routines.

Clean-ups like these are a collaboration between the Region’s Cultural Services and Facilities teams and are sometimes contracted out to local companies that specialize in graffiti removal.

The Region of Waterloo has created a Public Art maintenance plan, which ensures each piece in the Region’s Public Art collection is inspected regularly to see what needs care or clean-up. With proper care and renewal, public art along the ION light rail will continue to tell its unique story of Waterloo Region and beyond.

Learn more about the 10 pieces in the ION Public Art collection, which were created to express and reflect Waterloo Region’s unique identity.

Did you know we have an interactive map with information about the Region of Waterloo’s public art installations? Check it out!