Waterfront Toronto is pleading with whoever took one of the bright orange swimmers floating in Lake Ontario at Harbour Square Park to return him before he’s left behind.
The temporary art exhibition SOS (Safety Orange Swimmers), created by Boston artists to draw attention to the global refugee crisis, features 25 orange figures clutching black rubber lifesavers to represent the more than 25 million refugees around the world.
It was brought to Toronto this summer but is set to to return to the U.S. city this weekend.
Unfortunately one of the figures got loose from the group, Thursday night and was spotted floating close to land by a member of the public, said Waterfront Toronto spokesperson Andrew Tumilty. When staff from Waterfront Toronto came out Friday morning to check, all they found was flecks of orange paint on the boardwalk.
“So it looks like somebody took it. Whether they were trying to be helpful or whether they took it as their new coffee table I don’t know,” he said.
“The other complication here is that it’s been in the water since July and of course this happened literally days before the artists are coming back to take it back to Boston.”
The artists Ann Hirsch and Jeremy Angier originally displayed it in Boston’s Fort Point Channel in 2016.
Hirsch told the Star in July that the idea came about during the run-up to the U.S. election as immigration and refugees were becoming an increasing part of the public conversation.
“Looking at the body of water where the project was proposed, we really saw such a very strong connection between that body of water and the bodies of water that so many refugees are crossing and risking their lives to get to safety,” she said.
“(Orange) represents danger, peril and also the colour of a lot of life vests like the ones that we were seeing in 2016 around the beaches around the Mediterranean in those photographs that we all saw, the people landing on the shores of the Mediterranean at so many different locations.”
They have since added two figures as the number of refugees has risen globally. Each individual swimmer moves on a line connected to a tethering system that’s anchored at the bottom of the lake.
Tumilty said Waterfront Toronto was looking for something that could be installed in the lake itself and thought the swimmers were timely given Canada’s commitment to refugees worldwide.
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“We’re always seeing people taking pictures and stopping to check it out. It’s been really great to have down there and it’s just quite unfortunate that this has happened when it did,” he added.
“We’re hoping that whoever picked it up and took it out of the water would be good enough to contact Waterfront Toronto and that way we can get it back to the artists and we can send him back to Boston with the rest of his friends.”