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Fur the love of beasties: Edmonton's rich tradition of animals in public art – Edmonton Journal

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The late, great Joe Fafard’s Royal Sweet Diamond (2001) on jasper Avenue.


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Permanent monuments to animals within Edmonton follow a long, long trail, going back to our beginnings.

Animal worship and awe emerges from Palaeolithic times — some of our first depictions of anything were simplifications in paint and chipped stone of the mysterious creatures around us.

Today’s Edmonton is no exception in having our own complicated set of sculptural animal mythologies, carved and cast creatures in wood, stone and bronze — even ice now that it’s winter — all easy to fall in love with. From the Chinese lions at Lucky 97 to the tucked-away beaver in Amiskwaskahegan (Beaver Hills House Park) to the burro downstairs in City Centre Mall, they’re everywhere … once you start looking for them.

What follows is a personal-favourites checklist of animal statues. From granite bears to iron bison to bronze pronghorns — to a landlocked whale at the end of a mall — our ecosystem of animals immortalized in sculptural public art is indeed enviable.


Joe Fafard’s Western Dancer (2004) on Jasper Avenue.

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10. Joe Fafard’s Western Dancer and Royal Sweet Diamond (11214 and 11204 Jasper Ave.) — These two realistically painted heavy-lifters — a horse and a bull — are a reminder of the area’s agricultural roots, the late Fafard’s work appearing cross-country over the years including outside the National Gallery and on a series Canadian stamps. Let’s not forget paskwamostos (1999), his flat bison sculpture out behind Shaw Conference Centre — completing this unofficial triptych.


Olle Holmsten’s Natural History Frieze (1967) at Glenora Building, the former RAM.

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9. Olle Holmsten’s Natural History Frieze (1967, Glenora Building, 12845 102 Ave.) — Basically a big sleepover of wonderful beasties on the east side of the former Royal Alberta Museum, this includes a mammoth, bear and bison. But it’s really the triceratops I’m crushing on here. Back in the ’60s Holmsten was paid $19,500 for this and a Human History frieze on the west side — but every cent of his prize money went to production, and was thus a true labour of love.


Robin Bell’s Open Sea (1985) in West Edmonton Mall.

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8. Robin Bell’s Open Sea (1985, West Edmonton Mall, Phase I, 8882 170 St.) — This would’ve ranked higher in its original spot before a sexy underwear store displaced it, when the whale still lived near the Ice Palace, and more appropriately in a fountain. Still, kudos to WEM for releasing this beloved interactive sculpture before I had to start a #savethewhale media campaign.


John Weaver’s The Pronghorns (1970) — currently hidden away inside the Glenora Building.

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7. John Weaver’s The Pronghorns at Glenora building (1970, 12845 102 Ave.) — Is something still public art if most people can’t actually get to it? The fate of the former Royal Alberta Museum is still unknown, but when asked, officials say so far the plan is to keep this incredible scene within the building (no promises). This one’s a local masterpiece — hope we can all access it again, as cattleman Ian Tyson puts it, someday soon. P.S., Weaver also made the Gretzky Statue.


Mary Anne Barkhouse’s Reign in (ÎNÎW) River Lot 118 Indigenous art park.

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6. Mary Anne Barkhouse’s Reign (2018, (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11) — This whole sculpture park is an incredible addition to the city, but my favourite piece is Barkhouse’s depiction of a hare and fox resting almost back to back. It’s a message of peace atop a band of dinosaur bones — reminding us where we all end up despite our struggles. Brilliant.


Lionel A.J. Thomas’ The Migrants (1957) sits on the east side of City Hall.

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5. Lionel A.J. Thomas’ The Migrants (1957, City Hall, 1 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.) — The outrage over this $16,000 modern sculpture of flying geese far exceeded panic attacks over Talus Dome. It was quickly dubbed Spaghetti Tree by haters, and even inspired a mocking novelty song. But now this gentle beauty sits with quiet dignity on the west side of City Hall, just a hop over from the Gretzky statue.


Earl Muldoe with Chester MacLean and Victor Mowat’s ‘Ksan Totem Pole (1983) at Glenora Building.

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4. Earl Muldoe (Gitxsan Master Carver) with Chester MacLean and Victor Mowat’s ’Ksan Totem Pole (1983, Glenora Building, 12845 102 Ave.) — Carved and raised for Universiade ’83, this red cedar log totem pole features Owl, Bear, Salmon, Raven and Frog (relating to the Gitxsan creation story), and Strong Man. You might remember WUGIE, Universiade’s owl mascot, but I like Owl here a little better — even if it didn’t get its own disco theme song pressed on 45.


Craig LeBlanc’s Henri (2010) won an international art award.

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3. Craig LeBlanc’s Henri at Terwillegar Rec Centre (2011, 15204 23 Ave.): While there are a number of lions around town, this sleeping cat suspended in a net hammock is local artist Craig LeBlanc’s masterpiece, a subtle reminder that for all our running and heavy lifting, resting is as important a part of exercise as pushing it to the limit.


Roy Leadbeater’s 1968 Rod of Asclepius at U of A Hospital is technically untitled.

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2. Roy Leadbeater’s Untitled (1968, 112 Street entrance, University of Alberta Hospital, 8440 112 St.) — This heavy-metal party snake used to hang over at the Faculty of Medicine, its double helix, exploding Maple Leaf and hissing mouth making it look like a logo for an Marvel-movie evil corporation. Rediscovering this evocative Rod of Asclepius over at U of A Hospital was pure pleasure.


One half of Brandon Vickerd’s two-statue Wildlife (2015) at 10234 96 St.

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1. Brandon Vickerd’s Wildlife (2015, 10234 96 St.) — Philosophically, there’s just so much going on with these two humanoid figures made up of animals, hanging around day and night in the Quarters. Cast in bronze, Vickerd used taxidermy animals as models for his final sculptures, and they really do comment on how urban environments are an ever-rotating system of displacement for all animals, including us.

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Nanaimo lawn bowler turns sport's 'bowls' into art | CTV News – CTV News VI

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NANAIMO, B.C. –

Judy MacNeal will never forget the first day she tried lawn bowling.

She learned that the balls were called bowls, and that they didn’t roll straight. And then, one of the members of the Nanaimo Lawn Bowling Club threw Judy a metaphorical curve ball.

“She said, ‘Maybe you could paint a little flower on there,’” Judy says, recalling the woman pointing to her bowl.

The woman wondered if Judy could put a blossom on an old bowl after hearing that Judy had had a career in graphic design that began with creating pages as a paste-up artist for Sears catalogues during the late 1960s.

“You got all the little photographs and you had to cut them out with scissors and stick them on with rubber cement glue,” Judy recalled.

The pre-computer design process sounds similar to Judy’s post-game bowl transformation.

Instead of simply painting a little flower on the sports equipment, Judy used clay to turn the bowl into a bountiful bouquet.

“You have to make each petal out of clay, paint it, and stick it on,” Judy laughs, simplifying a creative process that can take up to 15 hours.

Judy was so inspired by covering that first bowl with bespoke flowers, she threw a curve ball of her own, after seeing a shed-full of used bowls at the club that were destined for the dump.

“I took home 120 bowls!” Judy laughs.

Judy set-up a studio in her garage, where she proved to be a prolific bowl painter.

“They were a good thing to have on hand during the pandemic,” Judy laughs.

Judy has painted about 80 bowls so far, ranging from blond bowls (Marilyn Monroe), to dog bowls (a pair of bull dogs), to Christmas bauble bowls (Santa Clause and a nativity scene).

Dozens of others (including bejewelled mandalas) were given as gifts to friends and family.

“I have about 35 to 40 (unpainted) bowls left,” Judy says before laughing. “Then (the club’s) shed will have to be cleaned out again!”

Perhaps Judy will use her catalogue-creating skills to sell them. After being bowled-over by the pleasure of making them, she has no intention to throw another curve ball and stop.

“I’ve learned to do your own thing,” Judy smiles. “And make yourself happy by doing it.”  

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New show at Art Gallery Kimberley | Kimberley – E-Know.ca

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Second Chance – Journey to the Butterfly: soapstone sculptures, flipstones, drawings and paintings that invite contact, interaction, and introspection.

Born on the prairies, Barbara Maye found herself moving and travelling as a nomadic seeker for decades. But when she hugged her first Giant Cedar near Radium in 2005, she knew she had finally found home in B.C.

Inspired by Indigenous beliefs from around the globe, and the spiritual wisdom of healing energies both in our bodies and in entities of nature, Barbara’s artworks acknowledge the origins; wood as tree, stone as mountain, and body as spirit.

As a multimedia artist, sculptor, and art instructor based in Revelstoke, Barbara has dedicated more than 20 years to creating art that invites contact, interaction, and introspection. By presenting close-up perspectives of figural movement, pure abstraction and objects from nature, her method invites the passive observer to interact and self-identify with the art.

This summer, Barbara is presenting not one, but two art exhibitions in Kimberley. After a successful solo art exhibition at the Centre 64 Gallery where she filled the main gallery with her soapstone sculptures and paintings, Barbara’s journey continues with a completely new art exhibition at Art Gallery Kimberley.

“Second Chance – Journey to the Butterfly” will feature Barbara’s soapstone sculptures, as well as multi-media/multi-genre paintings and drawings inspired by the story of soapstone.

According to Barbara, soapstone is the result of a metamorphosis. “Like the transformation to a butterfly inside the chrysalis, soapstone undergoes a complete physical restructuring when the correct environmental conditions are present. The resulting rock is coloured uniquely by the minerals present and the flow of the molten experience. It is understandable why many honour soapstone for its healing properties associated with openness, flexibility, communication, imagination, and change,” said Barbara.

Emulating this rolling, molten formation, Barbara created her innovative Flipstones, which are interactive sculptures that you are encouraged to pick up, examine closely, and ‘flip’ into a new resting position. By changing the position of the Flipstones, you shift the initial perspective for the next person and create an ever-changing art exhibition.

“When carving stone, I am deeply aware of the release of energy stored in the stones over millennia,” said Barbara. “My free-form style of carving is a co-creation process with the stone, during which my role is to help the stone take a new form

to express itself. I see myself as merely a channel for creative energy to flow through.”

Barbara uses soapstone dust and rock chips from her carving studio to create rich textures in her paintings. This texture can be found in her Landscape paintings – which are memories of locations visited in search of soapstone; her Lava Study paintings exploring the stones’ metamorphosis; and in the Emergence series paintings, where she expresses the euphoria of post-transformation.

Immediately after graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction, Barbara studied with Chaka Chikodzi, a Zimbabwean Canadian master stone carver. He taught her the Shona people’s way to carve; approach the rocks with respect and no expectations then co-create the form intuitively. This ignited a passion for stone carving and the free-form style Barbara practices to this day.

Deeply influenced by the generous teachings of Noreen E. Saddleback of the Samson Cree Nation and Elder Bart Thomas, Splatsin Band, Guardian and Knowledge Keeper of the Secwepemc First Nation, Barbara’s artworks respectfully explore Nature for the arcane wisdom she holds.

It took 10 years to realize Barbara’s dream of harvesting stone directly from the land to carve, but Mark McKay, a retired carver and prospecting took her on a mentorship in the mountains surrounding Revelstoke. Understanding the tectonics (earth processes) that form soapstone, locating and respectfully harvesting the raw stone and the original locations of the rocks all inform the creation process of Barbara’s abstract sculptures – some carved into Flipstones and some in the traditional pedestal style.

When asked what she enjoys most about creating art, Barbara says “I think what I like most about art are the gifts found in the ‘happy accidents.’ If we can stay open minded during the creative process, a mistake can be a generous reward. It’s how the Flipstones came to be. I was carving a large stone and at the very end, it broke into five pieces. Yes I was upset, but it taught me about stone fractures, and acceptance that the stones were in charge. Later I picked up those pieces and turned them into multiple-position, interactive sculptures … and the concept of interplay and changing perspectives is the language of my work today.“

Barbara says the greatest challenge she faces during the creation of her art is her mind getting in the way. “I try to approach my work like meditation, keeping my critical mind quiet. But overthinking and self-criticism are my nemesis. The techniques I discover and practice to overcome this challenge are the methods I teach in my art classes.”

As an art instructor, Barbara strives to make the language of art more attainable to everyone. She began teaching while in university and continues today as a freelance and on-line instructor of primarily adult art education classes in several media. Barbara’s teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that anyone, given a fresh perspective, can recapture their creative voice.

“I think my greatest pride as an artist comes from teaching; seeing the opening in a student as they recognize their creative self; sharing what I have learned in my own creative journey; and the genuine friendships that have evolved from the classroom,” said Barbara. “I have many students who have continued classes with me for years, just to keep their practice going, and several who have gone on to exhibit and sell their work as much better artists than me. It’s so rewarding to be a small piece of their growth.”

Barbara’s exhibition will be in the art gallery from August 3 to 27. The art gallery will be participating in this year’s Columbia Basin Culture Tour on August 6 and 7.

As part of this tour, Barbara will be presenting a slide show on Abstract Art and she will set up art creation stations introducing visitors to: Upside Down Drawing; Drawing on our Senses; Surrealist Inspired Abstraction; and Fauvist Inspired Abstraction. More information can be found at artgallerykimberley.com.

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Art, not arch, proposed for downtown Collingwood – CollingwoodToday.ca

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After an overarching negative response to a proposed archway in downtown Collingwood, the local business association is proposing public art instead. 

A report from Downtown Collingwood Business Improvement Area (BIA) general manager Susan Nicholson headed to council on Aug. 8 proposes a gateway feature, that is not an archway, to be designed and chosen through the use of the town’s existing public art policy. 

This new approach, states Nicholson’s report, is meant to provide an attraction that encourages customers downtown without losing the federal grant of $215,000 earmarked for the archway project. 

The proposed archway was presented to council in early March 2022. The design showed two tall poles with a black metal archway between spanning Hurontario Street at the intersection with First Street/Huron Street. On the arch were white letters reading “Historic Downtown Collingwood” on one side and “Historic Harbourfront Collingwood,” on the other. The idea, according to the BIA, was to help people find the downtown and encourage them to turn onto Hurontario Street. 

The proposal was immediately and vehemently rejected by public opinion. Letters to CollingwoodToday.ca decried it as an eyesore and the BIA received dozens of emails and submissions opposing the design and concept of an archway in the downtown. 

A public survey put out by the town in April received nearly twice as many responses as the 2022 town budget survey with 727 responses to the archway survey and 529 of them (72.8 per cent) against an archway altogether. 

Town council was also bombarded with opposition from residents culminating to a meeting on May 30 when Mayor Keith Hull (then acting mayor) said he was surprised by the ferocity of the response to the archway. 

At the May 30 meeting, council told the BIA and town staff to go back to the drawing board to find a different way to spend the $215,000 federal grant. 

Nicholson’s proposal to use the town’s Public Art Policy to commission a gateway feature that is not an arch is in response to council’s May order.

Based on a plan approved by the BIA board, the process for the public art gateway feature, if it is approved by council, would begin with planning by an ad-hoc committee to come up with a budget and theme with an invitation to the community to participate on the committee. 

Later there would be a call to artists, a selection process with interviews, and, ultimately, the installation of the piece. 

There would be a public art working group selected for the project including town staff, BIA, community members, and representatives from the Collingwood Museum, the historical society, and the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts. 

The BIA’s goal is to move quickly through the process to have a final design and artist contracted by the end of January 2023. The federal grant must be spent on a project that is substantially complete by March 31, 2023.

If council approves this approach to commissioning a gateway feature that will double as public art, the BIA will be asking the town to cover a loss of $35,350 spent to design and commission the former arch design. 

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