Canadian mosaic

Summer’s events come and gone, but Canada 150 still going strong

Crescent Park’s central fountain is a legacy of Canada’s centennial celebrations so it’s only fitting that half-a-century later, the sesquicentennial is marked with an addition.
In the tradition of Terra the Turtle in Wakamow Valley, artist Grant McLaughlin and education co-oridnator for the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery Christy Schweiger partnered again to create an installation at the entrance to Crescent Park. Under the tall trees, amidst the fallen yellow leaves, now lie four more. Made of concrete poured into a mold and covered in handcrafted tiles, the maple leaves reflect the meaning of Canada back to this community, one word or image at a time.
“We have such an obsession with all the negative things that go on, and it’s nice that they can see that kids have this optimistic outlook, and you have to keep that,” McLaughlin told the Times-Herald. “You have to keep the positive things in front of people so they can keep that in mind. It just makes life better.”
Schweiger led workshops in which children — and then the public at large — were encouraged to create images about their favourite thing about Canada to adorn the cement leaves. She said the variance in answers she saw, especially from the smallest children, took her by surprise.
“What really interested me about that process is that the naturally-born kids that were here from day-one, their things were something like Chuck E. Cheese, toys, that kind of thing,” she said.
“Then you look at the newcomers; they had things like scarfs, food, safety and security.”
There came a point where Schweiger said there were too many tiles for the space available on the installation, leading participants to take to paint or pen and paper to show what they value about this country. To that end, there will be another leaf unveiled in the new year that includes tiles made by people celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. Schweiger said part of the message of the work is meant to be about the next 150 years as well.
“There were a lot of pictures and images about all kinds of things. Some about the pride of being a Canadian, someone mentioned Tim Hortons, they’re just all over the spectrum,” she said. “When you look at each individual tile, there’s someone expressing what they like best about living in Canada.”
Beyond the philosophical or even artistic considerations, there were some practical matters to be dealt with. Neither McLaughlin nor Schweiger are strangers to public art, and both know that such installations need to be made of sturdy stuff to survive. The design, with most of the leaves reclining on the ground, is meant to complement the landscaping and flowerbed in which they are placed as much as prevent people from trying to knock them over.
Despite the risk, the piece’s creators see value in art that can be accessed by all, as well as something to mark the important anniversary in Canada’s history. If recent history — in the substantial form of Terra the Turtle — has taught anything, it’s that the children who participated in making this installation will not soon forget it.
“You try to get them to think of the positive things about belonging to Canada,” said McLaughlin. “There’s so much that’s done in a negative way, it’s nice to do something positive.”
Schweiger agreed, adding that the point of public art is also for the wider public to consider and enjoy.
“I hope people look at it and can celebrate all these beautiful events that are happening in the country, our community, and in our park, which is so central to the community,” she said.