Spirit Catcher

Ron Baird, "Spirit Catcher", 1986, Corten steel, 21.3 m high. Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre. Gift of the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation, 1987. Photo: Joseph Hartman, 2013
Western Mechanical undertaking repairs! Hurray!
Photo: Dave Friary.

September update: Repairs to the Spirit Catcher

Every year, the MacLaren undertakes a routine maintenance and review of the Spirit Catcher. In June 2016, the technicians noted that several of the ball bearings, now thirty years old, were in need of replacement. On the advice of the technicians, we fenced off the sculpture as a precautionary measure. The MacLaren brought on mechanical engineers from CC Tatham, who completed an on-site review of the structure in July. Their report noted that three quills required new ball bearings, and recommended undertaking non-destructive safety testing on the internal assembly to ensure that the Spirit Catcher remained safe. The report identified other issues—including some corrosion damage to the quill seams, some corrosion to bolt heads, and the general age of all ball bearings—but noted that the steel structure was otherwise in good condition.

The MacLaren has created a work plan to address the report’s findings, and has reached out to fabricators for quotes. Western Mechanical replaced all of the ball bearings between September 14 and 16 and they are now complete.  In 2017, areas of corrosion will be addressed. The Spirit Catcher has been sited on city land at the Barrie waterfront since 1987, and was accessioned into the MacLaren’s Permanent Collection in 1989. We hope that these changes will allow it to remain there for the next thirty years.

About the Spirit Catcher

At the base of Maple Street on the scenic waterfront sits Barrie's majestic landmark, the Spirit Catcher. Ron Baird was one of nine sculptors asked to submit proposals for EXPO '86 and he was one of the two sculptors chosen. The theme of EXPO '86 was transportation and communication. With this is mind the artist thought of his sculpture as spiritual antennae. The imagery of the Spirit Catcher was influenced by the west coast location and the Thunderbird of First Nations' mythology. The Thunderbird is a messenger who carries our dreams and desires to the Creator. The 20 tonne steel sculpture took six months to make and was originally installed at False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Once EXPO '86 ended, the sculpture was purchased by the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation (Toronto) after months of negotiations. The Foundation donated the sculpture, in memory of Helen McCrea Peacock and Kenneth Westrup, to the "Barrie Gallery Project" as an inspiration to create an art gallery in the City of Barrie. The sculpture came to Barrie on 2 flatbed trucks and was installed with the assistance of several volunteers and two cranes. The installation took almost two full days on the weekend of June 12 and 13, 1987, and was dedicated on September 12, 1987. The Spirit Catcher is made of Corten steel, a steel that does not flake when it rusts, but instead retains its structural integrity. The artist has deliberately rusted the metal for aesthetic reasons. The sculpture measures 70 by 65 feet (21 metres high) and has 16 kinetic quills, 2 wings, 3 legs and a pair of kinetic antennae.

The City of Barrie provided the site at the base of Maple Street on the waterfront and continues to maintain the grounds. The site may have been a trading post on the Nine Mile Portage, although it is most likely landfill from the 1960's. Legend has it that First Nations traders were treated unfairly by the manager of the trading post and an elder cursed the site. On the day that the Spirit Catcher was dedicated, the site was blessed with the burning of sweet grass and a performance by the Rama Native Drum Group. The Spirit Catcher became the first work in the gallery’s Permanent Collection and is still the largest work. It was this important donation that got Barrie's first public art gallery off the ground. In 1988 the "Interim Gallery" opened at 17c Mulcaster Street in downtown Barrie. In 1991 it became the MacLarenArtCentre after Maurice MacLaren bequeathed his art collection and his home at 147 Toronto Street to the gallery. Over the next several years the collection grew with several donations. The Spirit Catcher is now a widely recognized icon for the City of Barrie.

Requests for Reproduction of the Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird, 1986, Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie
 The Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird (1986) is a work in the Permanent Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre. In accordance with Canadian copyright law, the artist owns copyright of this artwork. Copyright laws exist to protect the economic and moral rights of the artist as the creator and to protect the artist from other people making money from the use of the artist’s creation.  The artist, Ron Baird, has granted license to the MacLaren Art Centre to present this artwork, and to authorize its presentation and reproduction, and to control the use of images in accordance with existing copyright legislation. This agreement is valid for the life of the creator, plus fifty years. The terms of the agreement state:
a)   Organizations wishing to reproduce a photographic image of the Spirit Catcher in print and/or electronic publications and communication materials must seek prior permission from the MacLaren. Permission will be granted provided the photography appropriately represents the artwork, gives the full credit — Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird, 1986, Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie — and that the materials bearing the image are used to celebrate the artist, the artwork, the visual arts and/or the City of Barrie. Reproduction and/or royalty fees may be required.

b)   Not-for-profit organizations in Barrie may apply to the MacLaren to use a 2-D image reproduction of the Spirit Catcher as a part of their logo or graphic design to promote an event or cause, provided the objects/merchandize they produce are not for sale. This graphic can represent the Spirit Catcher in whole or part (detail) but not alone, and in any colour, and without credit to the artist, the artwork or the MacLaren. Requests from non-profit organizations are to be submitted to the MacLaren Associate Curator/Registrar (registrar@maclarenart.com) for approval prior to use.

c)   Any other requests (i.e. from for-profit organizations to use an image or graphic of the Spirit Catcher to advertise or promote a product or service, or requests to produce merchandise for sale, etc.) will be forwarded to the MacLaren board/executive for consideration. Reproduction and/or royalty fees may be required.
d)   As legal owners of the artwork, the MacLaren Art Centre maintains exclusive reproduction rights for the Spirit Catcher in respect to 3-D replicas, 2-D printed images and other merchandize bearing the Spirit Catcher image for sale.