There are plenty of reasons to remove your earbuds, stop looking at your phone and slowly check out your surroundings in Richmond. But one of our favourites is the city’s eye-popping public art scene. Like a free-entry outdoor art gallery, there are dozens of installations waiting to be discovered here.

“The best selfies include public art,” says Liesl Jauk, the City of Richmond’s arts services manager, part of the dedicated team that brings many of these landmark works to local streets. “This kind of art creates a sense of place and can also bring fresh insights to our maritime, agricultural and ecological heritage.”

Uprooted by Patrick Wong
Art Column at Aberdeen Station - Uprooted by Patrick Wong

The city’s Public Art Registry webpage provides a browsable directory of local works, along with an interactive location map and background information on the artists. There are also six downloadable, self-guided 10 Minute Art Tours available so you can easily plot your own cool, culturally inclined days out in the city.

Some areas, according to Jauk, are particularly popular. “The Richmond Olympic Oval has a large number of works along the periphery of the building as well as inside. And several of the works in Steveston Village respond to the area’s maritime heritage,” she says, adding that Richmond’s Canada Line stations are also worth a stop or two.

Water Sky Garden

Water Sky Garden by Janet Echelman | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond

The transit line’s Aberdeen and Lansdowne stations currently have temporary ‘art column’ installations, while there’s also a huge wall of shimmering sequins – aka Perpetual Sunset – visible from the train just before Richmond-Brighouse Station. But that’s not all. “From April to September this year, some of the city’s Canada Line stations will also have photographic installations presented in partnership with the Richmond Art Gallery and Capture Photography Festival.”

Some local artworks are particularly popular with photo-snappers, adds Jauk. These include Water Sky Garden by Janet Echelman at the Olympic Oval – comprising a red zigzag bridge, water garden and two large net sculptures – and Crossover by Carlyn Yandle at Steveston’s Moncton Street and No. 1 Road intersection. It’s a crosswalk patterned like a fishing net stretching across the road – “the pattern is abstracted to invite other interpretations, such as fish scales or schools of fish,” adds Jauk.

CrossoverCrossover by Carlyn Yandle  | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond

But arguably the city’s most dramatic work is at the corner of Cambie Road and River Road. Ren Jun’s Water #10 Vertical is a towering stainless steel sculpture that looks like a giant streak of mercury dropped from the sky. “Although it weighs three tons and has no angles or hard edges, the form flows visually and appears light and fluid,” says Jauk.

It’s the kind of abstract and even controversial installation that’s impossible to ignore – and that’s part of its purpose, suggests Jauk. “Public art has the power to energize public spaces, arouse our thinking and transform the places we live, work and play into more welcoming and beautiful environments. But they also invite interaction – great public art makes strangers talk, children ask questions and can also calm a hurried life.”