Sculpture quite a gift for the town

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Wendy Elliott column

Most cities and many towns across Canada encourage public art, both permanent and temporary. Fifteen artists in Edmonton have created a site-specific outdoor installation called Dirt City/Dream City, while Regina artist Wilf Perrault made a giant grasshopper with steel and iron and greenery.

In Montreal, the Nave for Fourteen Queens commemorates the tragedy that shook the École Polytechnique de Montreal in 1989. Artist Rose-Marie Goulet wanted to evoke the names of the murdered women.

Artists Eduardo Aquino and Karen Shanski built a sidewalk public art project in Winnipeg. When the Osborne Bridge was redesigned, the city decided to include some public art. Now the bridge pays homage to the history and present of the area.

In front of the Halifax North Library, Doug Bamford has crafted a sculpture to show the strength of shared experience and that knowledge is power. The figures at the top of a monolith were derived from plaster casts of students from a nearby school.

The impressive bronze sculpture Work at the Trestle, which was installed last month at Wolfville’s Waterfront Park, is a tremendous gift to the community by one-time Kings County resident Allen Eaves.

The sculpture depicts and commemorates engineer Vernon Smith, who built and then rebuilt the Grand Pré Dyke section of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway following the terrible Saxby Gale of 1869.

Eaves commissioned the work to commemorate his great-grandfather's role in economic development in the Annapolis Valley.

A nationally-respected leader in cancer diagnosis and treatment, he earned a science degree from Acadia University and then a master's from Dalhousie. Eaves was considering a career in marine biology when the death of a family friend from cancer convinced him to go into medicine. He ended up specializing in medical oncology and doing a PhD in medical biophysics.

Eaves founded the Terry Fox Laboratory for hematology/oncology research, which is now an internationally-recognized centre. He built one of the first leukemia/bone marrow transplant programs in Canada. Eaves is also the founder of the largest biotech company in B.C., Stemcell Technologies Inc., which employs 500 people.

As a scientist, Eaves found a way to kill off the cancerous bone marrow cells in leukemia patients, make healthy ones thrive and transplant them back into a patient after chemotherapy, which eliminated the need for bone marrow donors.

Eaves’ success in the biotech industry has allowed him to give back to the area he grew up in. He chose sculptor Ruth Abernethy, who has her own Annapolis Valley roots, to create the sculpture of Vernon Smith.

Previously, Abernethy’s expertise led to commissions for sculptures of Glenn Gould at CBC headquarters in Toronto, Mackenzie King and Arnold Palmer. Queen Elizabeth unveiled her figure of Oscar Peterson in 2010.

Wolfville has received a considerable gift from Dr. Eaves, one that will grace the waterfront for many decades to come.


Organizations: École Polytechnique de Montreal, Halifax North Library, Annapolis Railway Acadia University Terry Fox Laboratory Stemcell Technologies CBC

Geographic location: Canada, Edmonton, Montreal Annapolis Valley Winnipeg Waterfront Park Kings Toronto Mackenzie King

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