WLU pays tribute to namesake
A crowd of mostly alumni and faculty waited in anticipation for the unveiling of the bronzed statue featuring the namesake of Wilfrid Laurier University on Oct. 18. Marlene Hilton Moore, the artist of the statue, lifted up the purple veil and the crowd erupted into cheers, impressed with the craftsmanship of the figure.
The origins of the statue began when Barry Ries, editorial and communications officer at WLU, walked into the centennial steering committee meeting with a proposal.
He sat a six-inch model of Laurier down on the desk and said, “This is the biggest statue of Laurier on campus, and we should really change that.”
Ries said he was “annoyed” that at convocation the students have nowhere to take a picture, so there should really be a statue to stand in front of. The committee liked his idea and the process of finding an artist begun, and that’s when Hilton Moore was found.
“The thing that we liked most of all about Marlene was that her concept for Laurier was a younger Laurier,” said Tiffany Bradley, manager of communications and marketing for centennial celebrations and a member of the artist selection committee, “Which was something we hadn’t really considered when we started this project.”
Hilton Moore proposed the idea of a younger Laurier, a Laurier at the beginning of his career. “We loved that idea,” commented Bradley. “Being a university campus, that’s what our students are all about, they’re finishing their education and about to embark on their lives.”
The statue still had a long way to come from just the idea. Fundraising began immediately and will continue until the end of this year.
Next came the actual statue.
“I start with research, I start to learn more about this person,” said Moore, an experienced Canadian artist who has done works such as the Valiance Memorial statues in Ottawa, Ontario.
“I want to find the thing about that historical person that I respond to … I really wanted to create that passionate young Laurier.”
The sculpting process then began, “I actually invented a process to create a sculpture,” said Moore, noting that all the details on the statue are accurate. “That’s like the sculpture you have here of Laurier. Which is a combination of all sorts of traditional sculpting techniques. I’ve developed a process where I can start to use real artifacts, like the clothing and so on, and work with those and build them up.”
The challenge then became speed and accuracy, Moore had only 10 months to produce a sculpture ready for bronzing.
“Ten months is pretty quick to turn around something of this magnitude, and she did that really well, I mean she was ahead of schedule, he was completed in the end of July,” continued Bradley. “And she didn’t disappoint.”
Now that the statue is here, vandalism is always a consideration.
“There’s always a worry about that,” said Ries. “But at some point, you know, you have to figure the students are going to police themselves.”
“At some point… you have to figure
the students are going to police
—WLU editorial and communications officer Barry Ries on concerns about vandalism of the new statue
Ries has great confidence that the statue will become “loved” by the student body. Both Bradley and Hilton Moore have confidence that the statue will be treated with respect as well.
All three said that if students put things such as scarves or hats, removable things on the statue, that this will be more than acceptable and show that he has been adopted by the student body.
“If you’re going to worry about vandalism, nobody would ever do anything, no one would ever make any commemorative artwork,” said Hilton Moore with confidence.
“You would never build anything beautiful, because you would anticipate vandalism and you would just stop, and that’s so negative.”
The statue itself is made of bronze and is destruction-proof; the marble seat that he sits atop of is made of marble extracted from a quarry near Laurier’s birthplace in Quebec, and it’s quite robust.
Though many have questioned the choice of statue, as the institution was not Wilfrid Laurier University until 1973, Bradley said there are a number of reasons why he was chosen, “The fact that we’re named after one of the most well known and well respected Canadian prime ministers … isn’t really evident on our campus in any way shape or form except for the name.”
“[We wanted to] make that connection for people who are visiting our campus,” she added. “We have a lot in common with Wilfrid Laurier the man, he was very successful and very inspirational and that’s what always strive to have in our students.”
The statue sits near the Quad and waits for students to take a picture with; his far off gaze is a look to the future, and as Ries stated, “With any luck it’ll be here for the next 100 years.”