David Pellettier, a professor in OCAD U’s Faculty of Art, and the former chair of the Sculpture/Installation program, created a long-lasting bronze sculpture memorial honouring the legacy of beloved Toronto politician and federal New Democrat Party leader, Jack Layton.
Jack’s Got Your Back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, was unveiled in a special tribute ceremony on August 22, 2013, two years from the day Layton passed away on in 2011. It’s located at the newly named Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay West, at the foot of Bay Street.
The life-sized sculpture depicts Layton on the back of the tandem bicycle he often rode with his wife, Olivia Chow. It’s a fitting memorial to things Layton loved and championed in this city, including cycling, the waterfront, the Toronto Islands and working together. The installation also includes a flower bed, donor wall and Layton’s final message to Canadians: “So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
Chow, the NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina, the riding OCAD U is located in, is a trained sculptor herself. She studied at OCA during her university years and worked professionally as an artist for years, prior to becoming a politician. After Layton’s death she made her own memorial sculpture of him for his gravesite.
Chow credits Toronto Island residents for the initial idea for the public ferry terminal sculpture. She took the idea and approached MST Bronze Ltd., a well-known foundry in Etobicoke, and worked closely with Pellettier in the process of its creation.
Pellettier, who balances his studio teaching at OCAD U with his own work at his studio in Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts on Toronto Island, says he appreciated Chow’s input in capturing his expression, and getting his smile right.
“Right from the beginning she’s been a big part of this,” said Pellettier. “She has far more intimate knowledge of Jack as far as getting his presence fully there.”
The sculpture was funded by the Ontario Federation of Labour and the City of Toronto donated the land for it. It’s estimated that two million people will walk by and interact with the sculpture every year—it’s designed so that you can have a seat on the bicycle and have your photo taken.
Jack Layton Memorial comes to life