It took 11 years to secure the Formal Garden area in the southeast corner of Assiniboine Park as the new home of the Citizens Hall of Fame, but it was well worth the wait to acquire access to the terrific site.
How did it happen? In 1996, Bill Burns, the former chair of the Citizens Hall of Fame, and Peter Squire, the public affairs director for WinnipegREALTORS® responsible for the administration of the program, met with John Rheno, the then director of the city’s parks and recreation department. It was one of those meetings from which you knew something positive would arise. As a result of the meeting, Rheno offered to relocate the inductee sculptures from the flood and vandalism prone site along the Assiniboine Riverwalk to Assiniboine Park. The offer was graciously accepted as a significantly better location to display local artists’ creations.
In 1997, Burns was pleased to announce that all 20 inductees would eventually be displayed at the magnificent setting among the majestic elms aligning the oval roadway surrounding the Formal Garden. Now in its 25th year, with 38 inductee sculptures prominently showcased on granite pedestals, the site has truly become an exceptional landmark.
Andre Lewis, the Winnipeg Ballet artistic director, said his favourite place in Winnipeg is Assiniboine Park, and his favoured attraction is the Citizens Hall of Fame site in the Formal Garden. He especially enjoys viewing the statue of former RWB artistic director Arnold Spohr by local sculptor Josef Randa. The RWB artistic director was inducted into the hall of fame in 1991.
The unique award program celebrates citizens who exemplify what can be accomplished through an outstanding commitment to a profession, cause or field of endeavour. The hall of fame acknowledges their work and extraordinary effort through the installation of their likeness, which are displayed for all to see for years to come.
In fact, what has been accomplished should be considered one of the most significant art installations in all of Winnipeg. The other major art exhibited in Assiniboine Park is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Mol is one the Citizens Hall of Fame’s earlier inductees, who sculpted the bronze busts of some of the other inductees. However, after a number of years, Leo was unable and/or reluctant to do his own self-portraiture, even after another inductee and friend, former Mayor Bill Norrie, urged him to complete his own likeness. Talented local sculptor Madeleine Vrignon finally had to be commissioned to complete Mol’s sculpture a few years ago.
The hall of fame is also a showcase for local artists, who sculpt the portraitures of every inductee selected each year. The sculptors involved in the program include Leo Mol, Josef Randa, Eva Stubbs, Helen Granger-Young, Madeleine Vrignon, Miguel Joyal and Erin Brown.
Special mention must be made of Eva Stubbs, who has not only been with the program from its very inception in 1986, and is the creator of the Citizens Hall of Fame bronze medallion that is presented annually at the induction ceremony to the inductee or relatives in the event of a posthumous award.
For the Love of Creation: the Life and Art of Eva Stubbs was published last year by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is a wonderful book with a feature on pages 49 and 50 of all the portraitures she has done for the Citizens Hall of Fame. Each inductee’s portraiture is inset into a lovely panoramic shot of the site in the summertime. The nine sculpted by Stubbs are Samuel Freedman, John Bulman, Dr. Sybil Shack, Dr. Naranjan Dhalla, Carol Shields, Dr. Arnold Naimark, Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald, Dr. Henry Friesen and William Loewen. Also in the book is the front and back of the bronze medallion award she created for the Citizens Hall of Fame.
Next spring, WinnipegREALTORS® will be affixing small rectangular bronze QR code pieces underneath each plaque, which describes the inductee and notes which artist did the portraiture. By using the QR code application on your smart phone, you will be immediately taken to the dedicated winnipegfame.ca page for the inductee. This should prove to be very useful for school tours and tourists visiting the Citizens Hall of Fame site. Last year’s inductee, Harold Buchwald, already has a QR code, which was put in place at the same time that his likeness was installed.
As of 2011 and in the future, the commissioned sculpture of the chosen inductee will always be completed in time to be showcased at the induction ceremony that is usually held every September in Assiniboine Park. As was clearly demonstrated during Harold Buchwald’s induction ceremony this year, the prominent display of the inductee’s sculpture created greater impact and was more meaningful to those who knew the inductee so well.
Another benefit is having the inductee’s sculpture immediately available for public viewing in Assiniboine Park. In previous years, it took many months before the actual sculpture was erected at the site. The installation tended to be very anticlimactic since a long period of time had elapsed between the induction ceremony and the installation of the inductee’s portraiture.
Nominations for the 2013 inductee are now welcome. The nominations for 2012 closed at the end of November. Forms are available at winnipegfame.ca or can be picked up at the WinnipegREALTORS® office at 1240 Portage Ave.
The public plays an extremely important role in providing names of outstanding Winnipeggers, who have made a significant contribution to their community’s quality of life, for consideration by the selection committee.