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When Brandon Vickerd started out as a sculptor in the early 2000’s, he received plenty of feedback in galleries from other artists but felt “it doesn’t really connect.” He gave himself “the task of making public art for a wider audience” and became more interested in performance than monuments. “I really wanted to get people to think about the cities they live in,” he says.

Five or so years ago, the artist was listening to music while walking through Toronto, where he’s an associate professor at York University. On a raised highway he observed over a dozen construction cranes, seemingly moving in sync with the sounds rolling from his earbuds.

He recalled noticing something psychological about the cranes. “They’re giant toys. Mesmerizing.” Later Vickerd passed a sign for a crane dance, but that was for the birds. “I liked my idea better,” he said. He got to stage it in Toronto in 2009, and when Capital Fringe called for public projects last year, he proposed and was selected.

On Wed., July 15 at 8:15 p.m., the two cranes at 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW will do their thing to music as the sun goes down. This free event is open to all, and is best viewed from Milian Park at 499 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 

For his Dance of the Cranes, Vickerd will work with riggers who communicate from the ground and the operators in the air. Unlike working with assistants and other artists in a studio, “with a performance like this, it’s about networking, communicating, and conversations. A different way of working as an artist, but at the same time really quite rewarding.”

Because of the scale and labor involved, Vickerd doesn’t know what it’ll actually look like until its happening. It will be professionally filmed, and he will later post it on YouTube and his website.

He has a couple more crane dances lined up this year in Edmonton and NYC. “Occasionally, you come across developers who totally get it. No question, completely support it.” Vickerd said it’s been great working with the team at 600 Mass Ave. “They got it right away.” (It helps that the head of Gould Property Company, Kingdon Gould III, is on the Fringe board.)

Fringe is heavily promoting the event, and more than 3,800 people have RSVP’d on Facebook, far outpacing organizers’ estimates. But Vickerd wonders about those unsuspecting pedestrians who haven’t heard about it, who will “look up to see the cranes moving in harmony, and what it might cause them to think about. It’s going to be a really exciting performance.”

Photos courtesy of Brandon Vickerd