The McMurtry Gardens of Justice Sculpture Program provides the Province of Ontario a unique and historic opportunity to both celebrate the Rule of Law and the Administration of Justice in Ontario and honour one of its most famous sons. In recognition of the decades of exemplary service to the people of Ontario and Canada by the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice and former Attorney General of Ontario, and in honour, as well, of the occasion of his retirement from the Court of Appeal for Ontario in May of 2007, The McMurtry Gardens of Justice was established. The Gardens, conceived to honour and celebrate the Rule of Law and the Administration of Justice in Ontario, indeed, in all of Canada, is located on land owned by the Province of Ontario between Osgoode Hall and the Toronto courthouse known as 361 University Avenue. Works of art, made available through the activities of McMurtry Gardens of Justice Inc. (MGJI) and focusing on the central theme of the Gardens, are and will be suitably situated throughout this area. The aim is to increase and enhance public awareness and appreciation of the benefits created and guaranteed by our laws and system of justice in Ontario.
The first work of art, installed at the site in 2007 in conjunction with the opening of the gardens, is an interactive piece called The Pillars of Justice, a larger-than-life, representation of a stylized, eleven-person jury standing in two rows under a roof conveying the idea of a courthouse. It was conceived that the twelfth person would be any citizen or visitor who might wish to fill the vacant, twelfth position, to thus “serve” as an integral partner in the justice system and possibly to be photographed by friends or relatives. A jury was chosen as the theme of the first piece of art, because of the key role the people play in the Canadian justice system and more specifically as members of juries that play a key role in our democracy.
The three new sculptures installed in 2012 were selected by an Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee of well-respected leaders in the art field, through a process that is in keeping with the Province of Ontario’s new Public Art Policy. That process can be summarized as follows:
McMurtry Gardens of Justice Inc. retained well-known art consultant, Karen Mills, to assist in an initial call for artists. Internationally recognized artists from around the world were invited to submit their credentials for consideration. To be eligible, applicants had to be professional artists recognized as such by their peers, with a record of public exhibition.
There was a strong response to the call and artists from many different countries including Canada, the United States, England, Azerbaijan, Italy, Germany, Poland, Russia, Israel, France, Australia, and The Netherlands, expressed an interest in making a submission. The Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee (identified below) assisted MGJI in the selection of artists asked to make specific submissions. These artists visited the site and then, over time, submitted proposed works of art.
A number of artists made several proposals and, in total, the members of the Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee and MGJI evaluated over 20 specific concepts. The artworks were subject to many considerations, including their educational value, creative response to the themes, ability to enhance the surroundings, cost, size, durability, accessibility and safety.
After a rigorous examination, including personal presentations by various artists, the three works of art that were approved by the Board of Directors were installed in The McMurtry Gardens of Justice in 2012. A similar process will be followed for the selection of future sculptures.
Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee
The following leaders in the art community constitute the non-affiliated members of the Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee:
Aaron Milrad (Chairman of the committee)
Chair of the Museum Trustee Association of America, President of the George Gardiner Museum of Toronto
Member of the Cultural Property Export Review Board, Ottawa
Director of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Former Director of the Art Gallery of Windsor and of the Canadian Contemporary Art Museum
Film maker and artist, Executive Director of the Documentary Organization of Canada, Member of the Status of the Artist Subcommittee and Minister’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture for Ontario
Public Art Co-ordinator for the City of Toronto
former chief curator, Art Gallery of Ontario
In addition, Seymour Epstein, President of MGJI, and Justice Gloria Epstein of the Court of Appeal for Ontario are members of the Art Search and Selection Advisory Committee.