On The Backs of Fish is an interactive and engaging permanent public artwork that reflects on the history and ecology of our landscape and our relationship with it.

The project is funded through Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage, Legacy Fund and the Community Foundation of Canada’s Healthy Communities Initiative.

The artwork was installed at Pickering Museum Village's Millpond Meadow in November 2023. View the location on the Public Art Map.


The Lake Ontario watershed forms an important habitat for a variety of aquatic species including Blanding’s Turtles, Red-Sided Dace, Brook Silverside Fish and more recently, re-introduced Atlantic Salmon. Atlantic Salmon once thrived in Lake Ontario and were an important food source for First Nations.

In 1812 John McCuaig, Superintendent of Fisheries of Upper Canada, said that Atlantic Salmon “swarmed the rivers so thickly that they were thrown out with a shovel and even with the hand.” However, this abundance was quickly depleted. With the arrival of Europeans, subsequent overfishing, and increased agriculture, the species disappeared and by 1898, the “last confirmed fish [was] caught off the Scarborough shoreline.”

Recently, these fish have been reintroduced into Duffins Creek and other tributaries by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The salmon hatchery at Pickering Central Library and the release site at Pickering Museum Village directly tie into the broader vision of the Atlantic Salmon’s story and the community’s investment in ecosystem protection and repair.


About the Artwork

On the Backs of Fish is an interactive sculpture that forms a connection between landscape, community and ecology. The work is made using a proprietary Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) material called Cloudcrete. Formal elements of the work take inspiration from a run of salmon swimming upstream, with the fish forms emerging from Millpond Meadow, mimicking the movement of the fish as they navigate the current. The installation speaks to the important place salmon have in the Lake Ontario watershed ecosystem.

The larger than life school of fish will be installed in the field behind the current amphitheater, adjacent to Duffins Creek. The intention is that On the Backs of Fish will form a bridge between the learning space of the museum and the watershed itself - an interactive work that encourages play and an embodied understanding of how the fish travel through the landscape.

About Bluff Studios

Sean Procyk and Sarah Fuller formed their collaborative relationship in Banff, AB between 2011 and 2014. During this time the two developed a conceptual approach to art making informed by concerns for sustainability, the ecological balance between humans and the natural environment, as well as community engagement. They both have a history of creating artworks in the Pickering area and have a deep appreciation for the region’s forest and water ecosystems.

Bluff Studio has over 10 years of experience conceptualizing, managing and executing innovative site-responsive public art works. Our mandate is to cultivate vibrant, engaging and equitable public projects that foster healthy communities and strengthen the urban fabric. The core of our creative practice focuses on engaging with local communities to generate site-responsive artworks. As artists, we have a strong belief in creating environmentally sensitive works that can help illuminate ecosystems and non-human inhabitants.

Funded by the Government of Canada

Canada Health Communities Initiative