Coun. Lorrie Williams is championing a three-piece memorial that commemorates the famous Wait for Me, Daddy photograph.
Province newspaper photographer Claud Detloff, who was photographing soldiers marching down Eighth Street to a waiting train, took the famous photo on Oct. 1, 1940. In the photo, five-yearold Warren "Whitey" Bernard can be seen reaching out to his father, Jack, who was among the soldiers marching down Eighth Street in New Westminster.
Earlier this year, New Westminster city council directed staff to pursue opportunities to recognize Wait For Me, Daddy through a public art installation. Williams, who is part of a mayor's task force that has just begun meeting to discuss ways of commemorating the historic photo, would like to see three statues created that depict the mother, the father and the boy.
"They will be just as they are in the photo - three separate entities," she said. "They are attached because mom is reaching for the boy and boy is reaching for dad."
According to Williams, preliminary estimates indicate the statues could cost $300,000, but the city would seek funding from other sources to help offset the costs.
"This is a once in a lifetime thing," she said of the memorial. "This is internationally famous. I think we should do this at a platinum level and do the best we can do."
Williams noted that the photograph has been deemed to be the second most recognized photo in
Greg Magirescu, the city's manager of arts and cultural development, believes that Wait for Me, Daddy is such an iconic photograph that the city should allow artists from across Canada to submit ideas for the project.
"My own opinion is, I think we are limiting the end product by designing it internally," he said.
Magirescu said he'll support whatever direction the task force decides to take, but personally believes that a proposal call should go out to the artistic community that is less defined than stating the city expects three statues. He'd like to see what ideas artists come up with to capture the powerful emotions caught by Deltloff when he took his photo.
"In my experience, limiting an artist to render an idea that is being given to them is a lot less appealing to them," he said. "Artists want to create."
Because Wait for Me, Daddy is the second most requested photograph in the national archives, Magirescu believes there would be national interest in the project.
"I think it needs to be extraordinary," he said. "Extraordinary, not only in what we think is extraordinary but in what the nation thinks is extraordinary."
Magirescu fears the city could be limiting the number and caliber of artists who may submit proposals by being too specific about its vision for the project. He suspects there would be artists of "renowned reputation" interested in the project because of the photograph's national significance.
"If we really are saying this is an important or iconic element of our city, I would prefer that it be less defined and more conceptual and putting it out as a call to the broader community," he said.
Magirescu said the mayor's task force has only had one meeting, so it's still in its infancy stage. Council has yet to approve the group's terms of reference.
"Nothing is etched in stone yet," Williams said. "These are the possibilities."
If the Wait for Me, Daddy public art is located at Hyack Square, the existing public art (Ab oVo The Fertile Nest) would have to be relocated.
Magirescu said the city can do what it wants with Ab oVo because it owns it, but the city has to be sensitive to the fact it was done in partnership with the New Westminster Qayqayt First Nation.
"There are lots of elements to be considered in this," he said. "I am reluctant to bulldoze through it without exploring those."
Ab oVo, unveiled in Hyack Square in June 2009, was part of a series of public art installations taking place in the region. The City of New Westminster selected the work by sculptor Carlos Basanta, who agreed to work with a First Nations artist on the sculpture after New Westminster Qayqayt First Nation Chief Rhonda Larrabee expressed interested in having some First Nations Art in the plaza.
Magirescu said it's yet to be determined whether the Wait for Me, Daddy project is a piece of public art or is a war memorial. He noted that Veterans Affairs Canada has funding available for cenotaphs or war memorials, so the city could apply for funds from the federal government if it's viewed as a war memorial.
"If it becomes a war memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada will fund up to 50 per cent of the project costs and up to a maximum of $50,000," he said. "They will basically fund a $100,000 project."
Williams is optimistic that the public art could be unveiled in 2013. She said the British Columbia Regiment has expressed interest in being part of the unveiling, perhaps by reenacting the soldiers' march down Eighth Street.
"They want to re-enact the march down Eighth Street," she said. "We could include the Westies and our police. It is going to be a celebration par excellence."