Meet… Brendan McGillicuddy

Sitting down with Heavy’s Production Lead to discuss his sculpting, quality control and more

From Stampede City to the Big Apple and back again, Brendan McGillicuddy’s journey over the past decade and a half been characterized by big moves and even bigger rewards.

The accomplished sculptor and graduate of the Alberta University of the Arts (formerly Alberta College of Art & Design) has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the business, including Brian Tolle (Irish Hunger), Julian Laverdiere (Tribute in Light 9/11 Memorial) and famed British contemporary artist Dominic McGill.

In-between, he has also exhibited across North America in galleries such as Exit Art Gallery (NYC), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (New York), Heidi Cho Gallery (New York), The Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Calgary).

Now back in his home province, Brendan has spent the past seven and half years at Heavy Industries, most recently as Production Lead. We recently caught up with him to discuss everything from  his genesis in sculpting to some of his biggest accomplishments at Heavy.

Q: What got you into sculpting into the first place?

Brendan: I appreciate  the tactical and physical nature of sculpture over being cooped up in a little space working it out in a painting. I especially  enjoy learning to use different tools   and new production processes.

Q: What does it mean to be a sculptor?

Brendan: That’s an interesting one. For one, you’re working in three dimensions. For example, if you were to do a sculpture, you could be doing everything from video to working with wood and welding. Basically, the whole idea of sculpting being just busts and statues is a thing of the past. It’s now opened up to much more diverse mediums such as video.

Q: Tell me a bit about your role as Production Lead at Heavy?

Brendan: A lot of it is focused on trying to streamline the production flow – making sure things are done in the correct order – while also trying to maintain quality and troubleshoot issues that can come up, whether during procurement, fabrication or installation. On any given project, I can also be co-ordinating with any number of trades on site, including welders, carpenters, painters – basically anyone involved in making things – as well as facilitating relationships with superintendents or prime contractors.

Q: It sounds like your role is unique in a way to Heavy. Does that fit into what sets the company apart?

Brendan: Heavy is very much focused on making it easier for a client to do something custom – to do something special. Nothing is standard at Heavy. It’s all about facilitating the creation of something unique while still having a smooth process. Understanding, and then managing, the whole process is what Heavy does best.

Q: Since being at Heavy, what’s been some of your most notable accomplishments?

Brendan: It’s got to be Wonderland (in front of The Bow). I was first involved in some of the welding at the shop and, later, on-site to finish off the install, which included some final welding and hoarding (painting). That was a big one for me. I had never worked on something on that scale before.  Another notable accomplishment in the works is the spiral staircase that’s being featured between the 59th and 60th floors in the new Telus Sky building.

Q: What from your background best prepared you to trouble-shoot jobs like Wonderland … and others since then?

Brendan: Art school was great at teaching us how to problem-solve, but also to think critically – about ourselves and others. That’s really given me a leg up on everything from production practices to scheduling and quality control to making things work more efficiently on site.

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