By Shari Narine
The artist whose work was given by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to former U.S. President Barack Obama will have a piece showcased this summer as part of the Capital Boulevard Legacy Public Art Project in Edmonton.
Alexander First Nation sculptor Leo Arcand’s piece, entitled ‘Nature’s Harmony,’ is one of five works that will commemorate Canada’s 150 year anniversary.
“It’s an honour to be chosen to be a part of history,” said Arcand.
Forty-eight invitations were sent to artists across the province.
“There were Indigenous artists included in there very purposefully,” said Linda Wedman, executive director, Art and Design in Public Places Program, with The Works International Visual Arts Society.
Fifteen artists went to the second stage of selection with maquettes (preliminary models) created. The selection committee viewed the maquettes, read the artists’ statements and made their selection of five.
Arcand’s statement read, “We will never know how to embrace the beauty of one’s knowledge, love, culture, prayer, and way of life until we share it with truth, love, and understanding. Bringing it to life in stone forever is my gift I share.”
“The (selection committee) was looking for the best Canada 150 story, the best art, the best messaging,” said Wedman. “They were looking for truly authentic reflections.”
The sculptures will reflect Canadian landscapes, culture, history and/or values, such as diversity, inclusion, reconciliation, and inspiring youth.
Arcand’s sculpture represents the universal lessons that can be learned through the metaphors of nature.
“I feel that the time has come to talk about the past, to share the lived experience of my people with everyone so that a new era of understanding can commence,” he said in his artist statement.
Arcand has begun work on his piece in his studio on the Alexander First Nation. Sculpted from marble from Vancouver Island, the work stands a little over nine feet tall – the tallest sculpture Arcand has created – and will weigh at least 5,000 pounds.
“I’m going to utilize the animals in this carving as I always do with all my work, bringing nature together as one,” he said.
Arcand anticipates 12 to 14-hour work days, five or six days each week, leading up to the first week of June, when he hopes to have the sculpture completed and ready for installation.
The call for artists, for the Edmonton project, went out across the province because part of the funding for the project comes from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, said Wedman. The foundation and the City of Edmonton each committed $300,000 to the project. The Downtown Business Association has pitched in with $120,000.
Canada 150 also granted $300,000. The Canada 150 themes include diversity and inclusion, building common interests and relationships, and supporting efforts toward reconciliation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
“’Nature’s Harmony’ means a lot of things,” said Arcand. “It means sharing. It means reconciliation. It means moving forward. It means growth spiritually, mentally and physically as human beings.”
Creating a piece to recognize 150 years of Confederation is special, he said.
“We’ve come a long way. We’ve overcome a lot of issues, boundaries. As we continue to move forward as a people, we continue to learn new things,” said Arcand.
Each of the five artists will receive $80,000 for their work.
The City of Edmonton has built five focal points, one per block along Capital Boulevard, which encompasses five blocks of 108 Street between 99 Avenue and 104 Avenue. Capital Boulevard has been designated a prominent site for “primary public art and design works.”
Arcand’s piece will be located between 103 and 102 avenues, in front of NorQuest College.
“It’s a wonderful location,” said Wedman.
While the artists are working toward a July 1 deadline, Wedman says they have throughout the summer to complete their pieces. Each time a new piece is installed, she said, it will be celebrated.
The other artists to have their work selected for installation are Sandra Bromley of Edmonton, Firebrand Glass (Julia Reimer and Tyler Rock) of Black Diamond, Ken Macklin of Gunn, and Voyager Art & Tile (Dawn Detarando and Brian McArthur) of Red Deer.