Arts, Culture & Media

How a Canadian city created a monument honoring the wrong man

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Credit:

Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen

Jack Purcell Park, Ottawa, Ontario.

Jack Purcell was a champion badminton player and shoe designer for Converse.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

And then there was another Jack Purcell, who was a local hero who mended hockey sticks for underprivileged children.

And here lies the confusion.

An art instillation was commissioned by the city of Ottawa to honor the life of a longtime resident, who, in the 1950s and 60s mended hundreds of hockey sticks for children.

But the architect and design team hired to create the public project mistakenly designed it with the other more famous Jack Purcell in mind.  

When the art installation was erected earlier this year in the Centertown neighborhood of Ottawa, there was confusion about the new public art pieces.

The monument features 10 large metal poles that resemble what seem to be badminton rackets.

“I’m sure people are wondering what in heaven’s name are these things,” Diane Holmes, local city councilor told The Ottawa Citizen.

“I think he just Googled ‘Jack Purcell’ and the only thing that comes up is the badminton player,” Holmes said. “The Ottawa-hockey-stick-helper-out-of-kids doesn’t come up on Google.”

According to The Ottawa Citizen’s Matthew Pearson, what happened was that a local historian, when the park was designed last year, "got in touch with the landscape architect and said, 'I think you have the wrong Jack Purcell.'"

Pearson said the art pieces are now being called "futuristic trees." But people walking through the park are not sure what to make of them.

"To many folks they still look like badminton rackets. Some people think they look like tennis rackets, and even one person suggested to me that they look like goal posts from the sport quidditch."

The park's makeover began last July and to complete it, the city committed a budget of $525,000 (CDN). "Of that, they installed 10 of these badminton rackets/quidditch goal posts/star-light tree lights - each of them cost $4,600 (CDN)," says Pearson.

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