toronto eaton centre geese

This Toronto team got up close and personal with the Eaton Centre's famous geese

If you've visited the Eaton Centre over the last year you might have noticed a few familiar Canada geese were missing.

Flight Stop, the landmark public art installation by acclaimed Toronto artist Michael Snow, has graced the Eaton Centre with a flock of 60 geese, flying through the mall's atrium in their quintessential V-formation, since 1979.

The work has been adored, endlessly photographed and even been in the middle of a precedent-setting legal case

In January 2022, it was taken down while the mall underwent massive renovations.  

Thankfully the geese didn't have to travel far.

toronto eaton centrePaired and packed in giant crates to accommodate their wingspans, the geese eventually made their way to Toronto Art Restoration, a local company that handles the revitalizing and restoring of the city's public art pieces.

Led by company Director, Alicia Coutts, this small group of artists and conservators take on all sorts of challenges, and in this case, that meant 60 life-sized, aging, geese sculptures all in need of some serious TLC.

toronto eaton centreArriving in waves of four at the company's studio in Toronto's west end, the staff found themselves bonding with each set of geese as they tried to get them settled in.

"The team gave each goose a name as they worked on them," recalls Coutts with a laugh. "Lucy Goose was my favourite."

"They are also set in different positions," remarks Lori-Anne Krausewitz, another member of the restoration team, "so it was actually challenging to figure out how to handle them. We found ourselves hugging all of them pretty tenderly as we tried to maneuver."

The team tried out a number of different support structures before settling on simply using dozens of pillows. 

Thankfully, the geese are pretty lightweight as they're made of fibreglass, which is wrapped in photographs of actual Canada geese. 

toronto eaton centreThe cleaning process was tedious as they carefully removed layer upon layer of dirt and grime with special conservation-grade cleaning agents, but eventually every piece was glowing again.

Over the the course of 44 years, the birds' bodies had also grown discoloured and cracked, with several having lost back panels and even a couple of feet. 
toronto eaton centreThe missing parts were replaced with new ones made from wire, paper maché, and many coats of paint and varnish until they matched the originals perfectly.

By early spring, the make-over was complete and the geese were ready to fly home. 

toronto eaton centreThe team has been working overnight at the Eaton Centre to carefully hook up and raise the geese to their original positions one by one.

Coutts tells me that one of the most interesting design elements of the piece is the scale of the wing-spans.

"Some were massive wing spans across and others, smaller. Snow made the ones at the highest point intentionally smaller. This created an exaggeration of the perspective. It makes the ceiling of the mall seem much higher than it is and adds more drama to the flight."

The final goose was ceremonially raised up Wednesday morning and the mall officially welcomed back its oldest tenants.

Michael Snow, who passed away just as the project was being completed this past winter, would surely be proud to see them restored and flying again.

His contributions to the city are some of our most beloved public art works, and Coutts is proud to have been able to contribute to his legacy.

"It was amazing to work on this piece," she said. "He has been a huge inspiration since I was in art school at OCAD and NSCAD."

"The geese to me symbolize the diversity of the Toronto people living in a united balance. All the geese have their own unique position. But as a whole, they make a beautiful formation". 

Photos by

Toronto Art Restoration Inc
 


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