St. Catharines residents welcome to see finishing touches put on totem pole

Published July 27, 2022 at 11:51 am

The totem pole stood in St. Catharines' Richard Pierpoint Park from 1967 until 2019 when it was pulled to be restored.

That 55-year-old totem pole that was removed from Richard Pierpoint Park so it could be restored to its original glory is nearly done and residents are being invited to come interact with the three artists finishing the touch-up job.

Three Indigenous artists, Bruce Alfred, Cole Speck and Dominique Wells, were enlisted to do the restoration of the pole, originally donated to the city in 1967, and on August 3, residents will get the chance to meet them and learn about the process.

The artists will be gathered at Rex Stimers Arena located at 8 Gale Cres. between 4 pm and 7 pm with guest speakers will join the event at 5:45 pm.

“We are happy to be able to give the public this opportunity to speak to the amazing artists and ask them questions about the restoration and history of our totem pole,” says Lori Mambella manager of programs and culture services at the City.

“We feel very honoured that an apprentice of the original artist from over 50 years ago was willing and able to lend his fine skills to our city for this meaningful project.”

The totem pole was originally commissioned in 1966 to the late Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw artist, Doug Cranmer from Alert Bay, B.C. who was renowned for his unique style of west coast Indigenous art.

The city installed the 40-foot totem pole the following year in celebration of Canada’s centennial. However, due to weather and seasonal effects, the natural materials of the totem pole were showing signs of stress after being on display for over 50 years.

The totem pole was carefully removed from the park in 2019 and brought indoors until it could be brought back to life.

Alfred, an expert in totem poles who apprenticed under Cranmer, had come to the city to perform a visual assessment. He met with the community to discuss the creation of totem poles, the difference between sacred and decorative ones, and some different options for the important St. Catharines’ art piece.

It was decided then that the pole was still in fairly good condition and a restoration was in order.

A Kwakwaka’wakw artist of the ‘Namgis band, Alfred was born in August 1950 in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Immersed in the traditional practices of his Kwakwaka’wakw culture, he was raised by his grandmother, the late Axu (Agnes Alfred), and currently resides in Alert Bay. He has over 40 years experience creating Northwest Coast Indigenous artforms.

Wells is a prominent Tmsyen artist from Lax Kw’ alaams, BC. She creates bentwood boxes with traditional motifs in acrylic in addition to works on canvas. The formal qualities of line and shape are what inspires her work.

Another Kwakwaka’wakw artist Speck was born in 1991 and raised on the ‘Namgis reserve in Alert Bay that has produced many talented Kwakwaka’wakw artists.

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