Nanaimo artist Amber Morrison turns a set of stairs into a work of art

Nanaimo artist Amber Morrison turns a set of stairs into a work of art

Morrison expects project to take more than 30 hours and seven cans of spray paint

There are 403 steps leading from the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union Pub up to the edge of the Nanaimo Parkway. Amber Morrison knows this because she counted every one of them.

The VIU student is in her final year studying fine arts and since Dec. 11 she has been spending most days, sometimes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., stencilling numbers onto the school’s longest set of stairs from the bottom to the top. By Dec. 21, about 24 hours and five cans of bubblegum-pink spray paint into the project, she made it to step 326. She said she’s around seven hours and two cans from completing the work. She calls it An End and a Beginning.

“I wanted to have a conceptual art piece that people would intuitively just look at and be able to understand. I didn’t want to be exclusive or exclusionary about it so I wanted to make something straightforward,” Morrison said.

“I started thinking about my time here at VIU and how much work I’ve put into this degree … so I wanted to do something that was useful to everybody and overall represented the metaphor of really hard work and the grind from starting to finishing something.”

Morrison, who describes herself as a “cross-disciplinary” artist, also serves as program co-ordinator for the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching student art collective.

She set out to create An End and a Beginning because she was interested in creating a repetitive, cumulative work that serves as a “response” to her environment. It’s also her first large-scale piece of public art and the first in which she’s had permission of the property owner.

She was drawn to the stairs as a symbol of progress because students regularly use them for exercise and a friend of hers counts them to ease anxiety. Also, she always wondered just how many stairs there were.

“I kind of really wanted to do something easy, literal and still thought-provoking,” she said.

Morrison got permission for the work by successfully pitching it to her instructor as a class project, meaning she will be graded on the end result.

“The wording I’ve used is that, ‘I’m activating the stairs as a sculpture by numbering it and I’m getting people to consider it in a different way.’ So I got away with that,” she said.

In order to proceed with the project Morrison needed to go through a few levels of approval, including from the groundskeepers. She said she received positive feedback while completing her work, including from a passing groundskeeper who saw the practical uses of numbering the steps.

“He was really enthusiastic because he said that this will make it so much easier to meet with other employees, to determine if stairs need repairs, like, ‘Stair 117 has a crack? I can dispatch a guy and get him out there and he’ll know exactly which step it is now,’” she said.

“Initially, this was supposed to run for a duration until February, but I’ve had multiple people come up and be like, ‘Can we just keep this indefinitely?’ So here’s hoping.”



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Conductor Willi Zwozdesky and pianist Nico Rhodes led 66 local vocalists in song for the Nanaimo Sings video project Keeping Calm and Singing On. (YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo Sings virtual performance features 66 vocalists

Fifth Nanaimo Sings festival was to have taken place this year

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Playwrights Scott Rivers (left) and Ray Appel (right) play contestants on a Gabriola Island-themed quiz show hosted by Lesley Hazeldine (centre) in ‘Gabriola Squares.’ (Video still courtesy Ray Appel)
Gabriola Players theatre group presents virtual one-act play festival

Three local productions will be debuted during online event starting this week

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Jordan Naylor gets into position as Alberni Valley Bulldogs player Ethan Bono takes a shot on net during a game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on April 28. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Nanaimo Clippers’ passion for the game carries them through pandemic season

Coach looks back on season following third-place finish in the BCHL’s Island pod

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

A driver was taken to hospital after crashing a pickup truck into a tree on Rutherford Road near Bradbury Road on Friday, May 14. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Driver taken to hospital after crashing truck into tree on Rutherford hill in Nanaimo

RCMP investigating incident at Rutherford and Bradbury roads on Friday, May 14

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
RCMP arrested a man in north Nanaimo who wound up empty-handed after allegedly failing at shoplifting, bank robbery and robbery at ATM machine. (File photo)
Man arrested in Nanaimo after failed attempts at bank robbery, ATM mugging, shoplifting

RCMP arrest suspect in office-supply store after ‘short-lived crime spree’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read