The 14-foot tall statue, designed by internationally renowned artist William Ho, features two bronze dancers on top of a granite platform wrapped with piano keys. The dancers symbolize the diverse arts community in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and the piano keys are in honour of a Steinway grand piano donated to the centre by Arts Richmond Hill.
Porretta started working on it in his Barrie studio last October and shipped it off for casting in March.
“This piece was a great challenge,” said Porretta. “My work for the last 20 years has been more abstract in nature. I was a figurative artist way back, so that helped. It was challenging mentally to get back into that frame of mind again.”
The piece was also demanding in terms of its physical nature. It features human forms with limbs outstretched, so it needed solid support during construction. Various areas of the plaster moulds were intricate and delicate. Many of Porretta’s students were impressed and fascinated by their teacher working on such a prestigious commission.
“I really enjoy working with the students here at Georgian. It’s a great experience to see their talents develop. There are a lot of teachers here who are artists working in the field, so students are learning from the best,” he said.
Porretta’s work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions in Toronto, Montreal, Guelph, New York and Italy. He honed his sculpture production skills as an apprentice at Cavalier Renaissance Foundry in Bridgeport, New York. Applying his skills to assist other artists, he also works as a master mould maker and as a sculptor for commercial and industrial projects. He has completed corporate commissions for organizations and businesses such as Cryosan Ltd. in Montreal, Novak Observatory in Florida, and Assione Corporation in Rome, Italy. Before coming to Georgian, he taught as an art therapist for Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital and as a medical illustrator for Toronto Western Hospital.
“My life has been meant to serve one purpose, that being to create sculpture,” said Porretta. “By so doing, hopefully I communicate to others what I see, feel and strive to achieve. Sculpture to me is an infinite circle, which in itself is redundant, yet I choose to follow the path.”
His most recent commission will be erected in front of the heritage schoolhouse attached to the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts and is expected to be unveiled in September 2013, in time to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the incorporation of Richmond Hill. The winning design was chosen from more than 30 entries to Arts Richmond Hill by Richmond Hill residents. Arts Richmond Hill funded the $200,000 cost to design and construct the sculpture.