A settlement has been reached in a long-standing dispute between the family of renowned Canadian sculptor Haydn Davies and the Ontario community college that razed one of Davies' most famous outdoor works.
The out-of-court deal, announced this week, resolves a $1.2-million suit filed in 2006 by Toronto's Davies against Sarnia's Lambton College of Applied Arts and Technology. Coincidentally, a play about the sculpture's destruction opens in Toronto in June.
While certain details of the settlement were not made public, it results in the establishment, in perpetuity, of an annual cash award for a graduating student in sculpture installation at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto (Davies attended the college in the late 1940s).
In addition, Lambton is returning the remaining pieces of the destroyed sculpture, called Homage, to the Davies family. Before his death, at 86 in March 2008, Davies prepared a series of drawings for a new outdoor installation that, should a settlement ever be reached, would be made from the remnants of the destroyed work - "in effect, an homage to Homage," according to his son Bryan, who added: . "We were pleased to reach this [arrangement]without a trial, because a trial would have done nothing in terms of what we wanted to accomplish on my father's behalf, namely to benefit art in Canada."
The settlement marks the end of a saga dating to June 2005, when Lambton ordered the demolition of Homage, a large, almost Stonehenge-like work of laminated red-cedar that the college commissioned from Davies in 1974 for its entrance. Officials argued Homage had to be destroyed because it had deteriorated to the point where "it was no longer safe." Earlier, they'd agreed to at least postpone its demolition by back-hoe to allow the Davies family to visit the site and make a determination. However, officials failed to reach the outside contractor hired for the removal in time to halt the action. The remnants were subsequently deposited in a compost field on the Sarnia campus.
The destruction made headlines across Canada and later inspired a play by Nova Scotian Anthony Black. Called Homage, the play, which had its world premiere in Halifax last spring, will have four performances next month at Toronto's Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity.
In his original suit, Davies argued that in demolishing Homage, Lambton violated his moral rights under the Copyright Act and breached its obligation to maintain the work. The suit was filed after talks between Davies and Lambton broke down in the fall of 2005. Davies wanted the Homage remnants returned; the college said it was "open" to this - but on the condition that "no legal action … be pursued against the college" and that Davies halt his "public criticisms of the college." Davies refused.
As for the "homage to Homage," the sculpture will be assembled by fabricators to Davies' design and then placed outdoors at the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., likely within the next two years. The gallery is already home to one of Davies' largest and best-known works, an abstract composition in steel called Algoma Blue. Michael Burtch, ex-director of the Algoma gallery, describes the new piece as "almost like a ghost image of [ Homage]and it's to be done in steel and it's going to be … a meditative spot … almost an intimate amphitheatre."