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T.C. Douglas statue damaged, to be fixed

The bronze statue of the late Tommy Douglas by sculptor Lea Vivot has been damaged, just as the internationally-renowned sculptor was planning to bring a show of other works to exhibit in Weyburn to mark the one-year anniversary of the work.
Tommy Douglas' steady gaze was altered somewhat recently, after some unknown culprits broke off a part of the late premier's glasses from the bronze statue that was gifted to the City of Weyburn and her citizens by world-renowned sculptor Lea Vivot. The statue will likely have to be taken back to Vivot's foundry in Toronto to be properly repaired; the sculptor was considering returning to Weyburn to put on an exhibition of some of her sculptures, possibly in September. The sculptor is upset about this damage, but also about the fact the plaques detailing who the statue is about and who the sculptor is have still not been installed at the base of the statue almost a full year after its unveiling.

The bronze statue of the late Tommy Douglas by sculptor Lea Vivot has been damaged, just as the internationally-renowned sculptor was planning to bring a show of other works to exhibit in Weyburn to mark the one-year anniversary of the work.

Located near the city's boardwalk on the Souris River, the Douglas statue has had about half of the spectacles on Douglas' face removed recently.

Almost as upsetting for the sculptor is that the plaques promised by the city for the base of the statue are still not in place, almost a full year after the statue was unveiled in a dramatic ceremony that included Douglas' grandson, actor Kiefer Sutherland, among other dignitaries.

Noting the waves of violence occurring in Europe and in England recently, Vivot said in an interview, "It's very sad what's happening in the world. I didn't think it would happen in your beautiful town."

The sculptor found out about both issues when some friends of hers from Nova Scotia and Europe came through Weyburn especially to see her work, and found not only had the statue been damaged, but the plaques were still not installed 11 months after the unveiling; her friends e-mailed this information to her, wondering if the area of the statue was being renovated, as there were no plaques or explanations about who the sculptor was, or who Douglas was.

Vivot suggested that if the plaque had been in place, indicating not only who the sculptor was but information about the subject of the sculpture, former Premier Tommy Douglas, then it's possible the vandalism may never have occurred.

"You can bring out good in a vandal; you have to take that risk," she said, adding her plans are still to come to Weyburn with an exhibition of additional sculptures.

"I would like to have that exhibition; I am looking forward to be back there in spite of this. For the act of one person, the whole city can't be punished. I just hope whoever did this will feel remorseful; that is all I'm asking for," said Vivot.
She indicated she could have the damage to the statue fixed, but it will require taking the statue back to her foundry and working on it there, as it cannot be done where the statue stands. She added the process to fix it could take a couple weeks, given the right conditions.

The vandalism disturbed Coun. Nancy Styles, who noted the committee working on installing the statue thought long and hard on the best location for it, taking into consideration the possibility of vandalism. This location, wide open to Highway 39 with a high-traffic restaurant and Third Street nearby, was chosen because it's out in the public for everyone to see and is not hidden away.

"That is troubling. That statue is one of the best things we have in Weyburn. For a city the size of Weyburn, we could never afford to buy something like this; it's invaluable," she said.

As for the lack of plaques, she noted she has put it on the agenda for the parks committee on Aug. 22, as she wants to know exactly why the plaques have not been installed yet.

Mayor Debra Button was equally upset about the vandalism, saying the damages were "unfortunate. Whether you agreed with Douglas' policies or not, the city was given a gift."

In regard to the plaques, Mayor Button said initially the city waited for the wording, then it was fall and winter when the city had a lot to deal with in terms of excess moisture, which really hit in the spring with a major runoff, and then the flooding in mid-June.

"I would kindly ask for her understanding with us; we'v e been catching up around the city, and we're seeing things we've never seen before, and we're not there yet. I'm asking for her cooperation and understanding," said the mayor.

The lack of the plaques frustrated Vivot, who pointed out in her travels in Europe or elsewhere, even notably old trees have plaques, as do all her works which are on public display.

Vivot said she is coming to Weyburn "for the wonderful people I have met there", and to show other examples of her work, which will be available for sale, with the proceeds to go to the Weyburn Hospital Foundation, and the Tommy Douglas Centre.

According to information forwarded through John Nolan of the Tommy Douglas Centre, there will be an exhibition of both small and large sculptures around Sept. 10, the first anniversary date of the unveiling of the Douglas statue, with several large sculptures to be set up around the boardwalk area near where the Douglas statue is located. Some 15 smaller works will be on display indoors at the T.C. Douglas Centre.

"The City of Weyburn has been most accommodating in supporting the exhibit, and are providing insurance for the works while they are exhibited here," said Vivot. "I am glad the resilient people of Weyburn has endured the very long, hard winter and recovered from the terrible spring floods."

She added she understands the pressures put on the city, and how it has "kept them from finding time to attach the Tommy Douglas plaques to the sculpture's base. I look forward to these finishing touches being completed and when I repair Tommy's glasses, our handsome Greatest Canadian will have sunny days and be joined for two months by other works of art which are close to my heart."

One of those pieces will be a life-sized sculpture of a young hockey player lacing up his skates, sitting on a bench. The sculpture includes messages of renowned hockey players, including one from Saskatchewan's own "Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe.