Maybe there are more, but I’ve found two big sculptures of bears in the downtown core. Not sure why the fascination with bears, but who am I to argue?
The first bear sculpture is pretty prominent – the one on Sparks street at Elgin. There’s no way you’d consider this a lost artefact – or even hidden in plain sight, for that matter. It’s a landmark – a fairly realistic depiction of a bear rearing up and impaling a salmon on its claw.
In the summer, there’s a constant stream of tourists lining up to take photos in front of the bear. I suppose it could make an imposing image. Its popularity makes it all the more depressing that the statue is a shadow of its former self.
Just in front of the sculpture is a small depression with three metal plates. Those plates hide plumbing that used to be turned on, transforming the statue into a fountain. Time was, when the weather warmed, the city would put the finishing touches on the statue by adding several smaller brass salmon sculptures in front of the bear, mounted slightly higher than the jets of churning water. It made it look as though the bear had just caught a fish dinner from a roiling river.
No more. Now it looks like some forlorn bear has wandered into the business district and scrounged through the dumpster of some nearby fish restaurant to find his meal. Gross and sad.
I never heard why they stopped re-opening the fountain. Maybe the plumbing is broken and they opted not to spend the money – but I wish they’d bring it back. It made the sculpture that much more interesting.
Bear #2 – Delightful
Located in a courtyard between York and Clarence Streets, the second bear sculpture is, for my money, more worthy of being a landmark. It was clearly never meant to be realistic. The artist, Pauta Saila, has created a more abstract, almost cartoonish, bear. AND he has made the bear dance. The statue is called “Dancing Bear (1999)” and it’s delightful.
I don’t have much to say about it except that it makes me feel like a kid. I just want to climb on it!
Probably not the artist’s intent, but there you go.