Art gallery raises money for bronze wolf

Matt Gardner
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The Mann Art Gallery held a special fundraiser on Friday evening to help raise money for a bronze wolf sculpture outside its front entrance.

Award-winning guitarist Joël Fafard plays his blend of Southern roots and blues music at a Mann Art Gallery fundraiser on Friday night. The event helped raised money for a bronze wolf sculpture outside the gallery designed by Fafard’s father Joe.

Given that the wolf is designed by acclaimed Saskatchewan sculptor Joe Fafard, it was only fitting that the centerpiece of the evening’s festivities was a musical performance by Fafard’s guitar-playing son Joël, a star in his own right.

“They invited him,” Fafard said. “They would probably have picked him because of the connection with me, because this is supposed to be a fundraiser for the wolf project, so what better situation than to ask Joël, my son, to come and play that? So it all fits in pretty well.”

The idea for a wolf sculpture came from a friend of Fafard’s who is a member of the Wolf clan in British Columbia. Given Prince Albert’s designation as the “Gateway to the North,” Fafard thought that having a wolf guarding the gate would be a good idea, and gallery officials seemed to agree.

The sculptor has already completed the armature for the wolf, and is watching fundraising efforts before beginning the labour-intensive process of creating the bronze beast. The final sculpture will stand six feet tall and weigh 1,000 pounds.

“I have maybe three to four weeks of work myself,” Fafard said. “Then I have technicians who would be making … a mold of the thing, and then making a wax replica of the wolf itself, and then taking parts of that wax replica and investing it in a refractory mold, and then cooking that refractory mold and burning out the waxes so that the void left by the wax is then filled with molten bronze. Then you take those molten bronze parts and weld them all back together to compose the entire wolf.”

The Mann Art Gallery must raise $110,000 plus the cost of a crane to install the bronze wolf. A painting of a white wolf inside is gradually being filled in with bronze paint to gauge fundraising progress. Thus far, the gallery has raised $20,000 for Fafard’s sculpture.

“He’s giving us an amazing deal on it,” registrar April Sutherland said. “We’ve determined that we need to raise $150,000, which will include all expenses, the wolf, the installation of the wolf and the huge ‘Welcome to Prince Albert’ (event), where there will be speeches and face painting and we’ll do a big thing out in the parking lot.”

The soundtracks that play in my head are what I always thought western movies should have for their music. Joël Fafard

On Friday, the gallery held its second fundraiser following the “Wolf Down a Beer” event in March. Attractions included a private concert by Juno-winning artist Joël Fafard, catering by local chef Kevin Dahlsjo and the auction of a Myles MacDonald painting.

Joël Fafard has won widespread acclaim for his virtuoso guitar skills and bluesy Southern roots sound. He has been playing the instrument since he was 15 years old and cites Jimmy Page, Hank Williams and Bruce Cockburn as his biggest influences.

“The soundtracks that play in my head are what I always thought western movies should have for their music,” Joël said. “I think that’s how I draw all those things together, because I’m not blues, I’m not country, I’m not bluegrass, I’m not old timey, but I’m all of those things at once. But you couldn’t call me a genre player. I’ve been mixing them all into my own sort of thing.”

The guitarist’s tours have previously brought him to Prince Albert, where he performed at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre with a violin and bass player. His shows are known for their witty onstage banter.

“I think storytelling sort of just came natural to me,” he said. “I mean, I certainly wasn’t good at it when I started. It really did just grow onstage. I didn’t really practice it at home or anything and stand in front of a mirror and tell stories to myself.”

The younger Fafard is working on a new album with Toronto musician Joel Schwartz and will soon undertake tours of Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. But he was modest about his contributions to the Mann Art Gallery raising money for its bronze wolf.

“I’m just happy to help out,” he said.

Organizations: Mann Art Gallery, Prince Albert, E.A. Rawlinson Centre

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Toronto Canada South Africa New Zealand

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