The Statue

23 Apr

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Where Should He Call Home?

Debate sparked this morning about the question of where the Statue of Gretzky belongs when the new Arena is built.

The statue was commissioned by Molson’s in 1989 and has stood in front of the old Coliseum since then. It has endured as a symbol of Edmonton’s former hockey greatness and the amazing era from which Kevin Lowe earned the majority of his Stanley Cup rings. But the Coliseum, now Rexall Place, is coming to the end of its life and a new arena is on the verge of construction.

So who owns the Statue? Well, it was gifted to the city but the Master Agreement for the new Arena gives Katz permission to move the statue to the new Venue, possibly in the Winter Garden or perhaps in the LRT station.

Both Gretzky and Molson’s have given their blessing to the city to do with it what they may. This is a nice gesture which will help keep the controversy from being clouded further than it already is. Of course, I expected nothing less from Wayne Gretzky who stands alone in the NHL in terms of his class and his understanding of his importance to this city.

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Edmonton’s most Powerful Voice?

The mayor, it seems is of the mind that the Statue belongs exactly where it is right now.

The statue, in my humble opinion,belongs to the land on which it sits, which is Northlands. I don’t think it should be moved. We have to respectful of the environment in which it sits now.

This sentiment is indeed very respectful of Northlands. In fact, I think respecting Northlands has more to do with the Mayor’s opinion than anything else. Northlands has been trampled (and deservedly so) during the new Arena talks and the Statue to Gretzky, as silly as one bronze statue may seem, is a symbol of status.

The Statue is a piece of art and will be viewed through many different lens’. The Mayor sees that statue as something inherently valuable and wishes to pay respects to those who kept care of it for almost 25 years by keeping it there. Perhaps there’s a sense that the old Coliseum and the Statue belong together, that they are a single unit. Certainly to an extent this may ring true to many people.

To others, however, the Statue represents not the building in which the Oilers play but the Oilers themselves. And so, whichever place the Oilers play ought be the home of that Statue. If the Oilers played in a community league outdoor rink then that Statue should be erected there as a symbol of Edmonton’s team. The Oilers make up such a large piece of Edmonton’s Identity and Wayne Gretzky makes up such a large piece of that.

There is, naturally, a 3rd option here. Move the statue to a neutral location and allow it to develop a new sense of meaning in the community. Put it in Churchill park or on the steps of City Hall. Put it in the Art Gallery or the Museum. Take it away from a hockey venue and make it a symbol of Edmonton as a whole.

Art is meant to be viewed and interpreted. The setting of art has as much to do with that interpretation as anything else. Where that statue is juxtaposed will heavily influence the emotions, memories, and cultural significance generated by the image of a youthful Wayne Gretzky holding Lord Stanley’s Cup overhead.

Will it become a symbol of Edmonton’s storied but distant past? Standing in front of an empty Northlands Coliseum, unseen by so many who used to because Edmonton’s major sporting and concert venue has moved. Will we look at it and say to our children, “Wayne Gretzky used to play in that arena. Now its empty.” The statue a monument to a better time gone by.

Will it become a symbol of the current Franchise and its meaning to Edmonton as a link to the past but also to the future? Moved from its old home to a new one in the heart of a Downtown reborn. Though Gretzky never played in this new building his accomplishments propelled a team and a city forward. Standing amongst new development that could never have been made possible without the Oilers, a team symbolized by the Greatest Player to ever play.

Will it become something else? Something we never could have guessed, because the interpretation of art cannot be imposed upon someone. Surely this is the case. However, what the Local Government, Katz, and the people of Edmonton decide now will greatly influence what that statue will come to mean for all those who look upon it.

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Pasquinate, a talking statue of Rome

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