With the recent induction of R.A. “Sam” Fabro into the WinnipegREALTORS® Citizens Hall of Fame, there are now 40 bronze sculptures prominently displayed at the Citizens Hall of Fame site in the southeast corner of Assiniboine Park. It is a significant art installation in Winnipeg and showcases some of the best local sculptors in Winnipeg.
The individual plaques on the pedestals holding the sculptures briefly describes the inductee and their area of specialty. In addition, the sculptor commissioned to do the portraiture is acknowledged. Not only is this done to recognize them as part of this unique awards program in North America, it enables a patron of the arts to understand and appreciate the different styles and choice of approaches these artists take when creating a likeness of these outstanding Winnipeg citizens. The Citizens Hall of Fame has become a platform for displaying the talents of local artists.
From the program’s inception in 1986, WinnipegREALTORS® has been proud to feature local artists as part of this program’s raison d’etre, which is the recognization of citizens who have made outstanding contributions to our city. The first sculpture of the program was Leo Mol’s impressive and larger-than-life representation of former mayor Steve Juba, the first inductee. Mol, himself, ended up being chosen as an inductee in the arts area.
And despite valiant efforts by a number of people, including former mayor and Citizens Hall of Fame inductee, Bill Norrie, Mol never could bring himself to do his own self-portrait as was originally envisaged. His pedestal sat empty for some time until local sculptor Madeleine Vrignon completed his likeness. She represented her calling and colleague so well by doing a splendid bronze piece of Mol.
Other local sculptors involved in commissioned work for the Citizens Hall of Fame include Eva Stubbs, Josef Randa, Helen Granger-Young, Erin Brown and Miguel Joyal. With the likenesses of the inductees on permanent display in Assiniboine Park, there is no question that this makes the recognition program special and sets it apart from other such programs in North America. The inductees also receive a special bronze medallion designed and sculpted by Eva Stubbs. The medallion sits on a very attractive granite base.
While some of the inductees chosen have been historical personalities, such as Nellie McClung or James Ashdown, others, such as the 2013 inductee, Sam Fabro, are still living at the time of their induction, so they get to know the artist during sittings for their portraitures. A few past inductees who posed for the artists were Israel Asper, who’s likeness was sculpted by Helen Granger-Young, and Dr. Naranjan Dhalla, who’s likeness was sculpted by Eva Stubbs.
What is actually involved when an artist has a subject posing during a sitting?
“As an artist, it is an immense pleasure for me to actually work with a live model in order to really get a sense of my subject's personality, and in this case Sam Fabro,” said Madeline Vrignon.
“Sam Fabro has a fountain of youth welling up within him. I could see it in photos, but there is a reason this man has accomplished so much. His enthusiasm for life is infectious as the people in his life can attest to.
“I normally require many photos and different angles of my subject and this time I was able to take actual measurements of features and to take all the photos I needed to also work in my studio when not with the model. I could only sculpt his likeness with a smile on his face.
“I took great pleasure in meeting him because a person is more than their features. I welcome the opportunity that WinnipegREALTORS® provided me by selecting me to sculpt for them,” she added. “It reminds me of being again in the sculpture studio as a student in the Fine arts program. My artistic journey has taken me many places but I really enjoy working with people in the practice of my art.
The Citizens Hall of Fame specifically singles out arts as the first field of endeavor, among others, nominators can put forward as an achievement in nominating a deserving candidate for a Citizens Hall of Fame bronze medallion award.
The criteria reads as follows: “Arts — for endeavours which enhance and support artistic/cultural life and well-being.”
To this end, a number of inductees have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts, such as Harold Buchwald, and a number have been artists themselves, such as Leo Mol, Carol Shields, John Hirsch, Lionel Fitzgerald, Arnold Spohr and Gabrielle Roy.
Beyond the Citizens Hall of Fame program, WinnipegREALTORS® has bought framed Roman Swiderik prints for its annual Winnipeg in Bloom Curb Appeal award winner, and for members who volunteer and receive a Board Builder award at the association’s annual banquet.
It also recognizes and supports local artists through its own MLS® medallion awards program. REALTORS®, who have done well in their annual sales and dollar volume performance, receive a unique one-of-a-kind artistic glass piece done by local modern glass artist, Jolanta Sokalska.
Sokalska, who received her master’s degree in fine arts from a Fine Arts Academy in Poland, is very active in embracing and nurturing the local arts community. She is the curator for Art Confrontations, an annual show of 50 professional artists in Winnipeg.
“A society with strong culture and with strong art is a winning society,” commented Solalska.
Winn Adair, the current director and chair of the WinnipegREALTORS® Sales Division, is a strong advocate of supporting our local artistic community.
“I am a local business woman and have used artwork done by local artists to give as gifts for years,” she said. “ It is always important for me to acknowledge our local artists and support them. Artists give the world vision through their creativity. I feel that we as REALTORS® help our local economy in many ways — one of which is supporting our artists. What better gift to receive than the gift of art!”