If you have ever taken a stroll in the west end of the grounds alongside the Better Living Centre, then you may have noticed a tall metal sculpture. The sculpture was built on site by sculptor Ron Baird who was commissioned by the House of Seagram for the 1968 CNE. The 26-foot high sculpture was originally built in front of the Art Gallery and at a later date relocated to the west side of the Better Living Centre. It is titled 83 after Seagram’s 83 Canadian Whiskey.
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1940, Ron Baird graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1964. He has been regularly commissioned to create large-scale, site-specific sculpture installations across Canada and abroad for more than 40 years. A sculptor and graphic artist, he is best known for his abstract sculptures. Often his work has imaginative elements that move in the wind, are light-responsive or make sounds. Some pieces also include electronics, electronic sound, interactive elements or incorporate programmed light sources.
Ron has completed more than 150 public, corporate and private commissions with a variety of inventive concepts. These include fountains, sculptural landmarks for world fairs and civic parks, towers, murals, carillons and site-specific pieces for business, donor recognition, industry government and private collectors. A lot of his projects are executed in stainless steel a medium he loves for its “versatility, permanence, and when polished, its chameleon like ability to take on the changing colours that surround it.”
Ron has taught at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. A winner of numerous awards and medals including allied arts awards from both The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Ontario Association of Architects for his work. Ron is also a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts.
Ron’s reflection on creating the sculpture at the CNE in 1968:
“At the time there was a wonderful Art gallery on the CNE grounds, circa 1927, neo-classical. I think it still stands. Carved into its frieze are the names of the greatest artists of all time (as imagined by the Toronto establishment back then). It was on the front lawn of this edifice that the sculpture was built and sited. The agreement was that I had to fabricate and erect the work during the CNE as a sort of performing artist...not unlike the guy who carved a thousand pounds of butter in the Coliseum. It was a difficult project to execute outside of the studio because I had only hand tools. I recall running low on concrete while casting the base and in desperation adding those big takeout drink containers from a stand nearby to the mix to take up space. For sure, the takeout containers were sturdier in those days. I suppose the title has to do with Seagram's. Sometime later the work was moved to the Better Living Building...I don't know why, I wasn't consulted. The budget I'm sure was under $1,000, the material; mild steel. I believe that there was an article in the Toronto Star or perhaps The Telegram.”
For more information on Ron Baird please visit the artist’s website: Ron Baird