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'Our Emily'
Emily Carr Statue

Victoria, British Columbia


Monument to Emily Carr Unveiling Set for Oct.13th
Canadian Icon Celebrated During Women's History Month
10 October 2010


One of Canada’s most honoured and significant artists will finally get the recognition she deserves on Wednesday, October 13th. Emily Carr, a Canadian icon and one of the country’s best-known artists, will be fittingly memorialized in a monument created by sculptor Barbara Paterson. “Our Emily,” as the work is known, will be unveiled on the grounds of Victoria’s Empress Hotel, which has donated the land in perpetuity.

Over the past two years the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Victoria led a campaign to raise over $400,000, achieving their goal in September with a large donation from Shaw Communications of Calgary. Raising these kinds of dollars during the economic downturn and was difficult, says Foundation President Ann Geddes. “But we never lost hope that we’d find enough people and corporations who would help us honour this Canadian icon,” she says.

Paterson, known for her monuments to the Famous 5 suffragettes on Parliament Hill and in Calgary, has created a remarkable tribute to Carr in bronze that features the painter on a rock with her sketchpad in hand, her monkey ”Woo” on her shoulder and faithful dog “Billie” by her side.

Emily Carr was the first Canadian artist to paint aboriginal natives’ totems, travelling in rudimentary style by canoe to scout out the scenes that would move her to record them. Her goal, she said, was to “leave behind me some of the relics of the west’s primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton’s relics are to the English.” But still, Emily Carr struggled all her life to earn her living, even taking in borders and raising sheepdogs. The critics were generally mystified by her paintings or they dismissed them as out of the mainstream.

Carr took up writing late in life and several years before her death, she received the Governor General’s award for “Klee Wyck.” Most of her other writings were published after her death.

However, in the past two decades, Emily Carr’s work has been featured in several highly regarded national and North American exhibits. Her paintings now can fetch up to $2 million. A university in Vancouver is named after her and first editions of her writings are prized.

Geddes and her Foundation felt it was time to do something important and lasting for Carr. And Paterson was game. “At first, I was feeling a bit burnt out after the ‘Famous 5,’” she says. “But then the idea of sculpting another artist who truly deserved proper recognition tickled me.” She began her work and carried on. “I had a feeling with Emily that she was pleased with what I was doing. So I just kept at it.”

In addition to Shaw, donors include retired oil executive Frank Garnett from Sidney, B.C.; arts patron Michael Audain of Vancouver; Rogers Communications of Toronto; Enbridge Inc. of Calgary; actress Clarice Evans of Calgary; The Edwards Charitable Foundation of Calgary; the W. Garfield Weston Foundation of Toronto and the John C. Kerr Family Foundation of Vancouver.

The Ministry of Canadian Heritage awarded the campaign $40,000 and the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts gave $20,000.

The unveiling will take place 1:30 pm. Wednesday, October 13th on the grounds of the Fairmont Empress. Former CTV television host Vicki Gabereau will host the festivities, which will feature First Nation’s dignitaries, three actresses portraying Emily, and Victoria’s City of Gardens Sweet Adelines.


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