Sculptor's threat to remove statue looks self-serving
Sculptor Lea Vivot, who donated her time to produce a sculpture of the revered former Saskatchewan premier and father of medicare, is so upset with the Sept. 10 unveiling ceremony in Weyburn that she is considering taking back the statue and perhaps moving it to Mr. Douglas's birthplace of Scotland.
In interviews this weekend Ms. Vivot called the ceremony, which attracted nationwide attention due to the presence of Mr. Douglas's grandson, Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, "a publicity stunt" and a "Hollywood circus"
She is certainly within her rights to be upset about the ceremony, which she felt should have focused more on the former premier and the sculpture. But to suggest that it's a good reason to remove the work of art from the community that raised the $30,000 to pay for the materials stretches logic to the same degree that Mr. Sutherland's TV series, 24, stretched believability.
The truth is that the presence of the actor, with whom Ms. Vivot posed smiling for photographs with the statue, attracted more attention to the ceremony and the statue than it would normally have received. Without the Emmy-winning actor, there might not have been the same degree of national news coverage that Ms. Vivot said left her feeling "jilted," because she was not mentioned by name.
This leaves the unsavoury impression that she was fine with the attention that Mr. Sutherland would attract, so long as the focus remained on her and her work.
No one knows better than Mr. Sutherland, who has had several scrapes with the law, that you don't always get the press coverage you want. Mr. Douglas as a politician didn't exactly get a smooth ride from the media, either.
The actor's presence was known well in advance and any reasonable person could have predicted the reaction to his celebrity. Still, for a movie star descending on a city of about 9,500, the event appeared restrained and reverential.
Mr. Sutherland's presence dominated the news coverage, but it's not as if he yapped about his latest film project; he was clearly there to honour his grandfather, not to enhance his own image.
Should he have been excluded because of his celebrity? If Ms. Vivot had approval over the ceremony -- as one media report suggests she thought she did -- would she have denied his participation?
Ms. Vivot also thought the presence of politicians detracted from the event. That's like decrying the attendance of hockey players at the unveiling of the statue of Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton.
Mr. Douglas was a politician, even if his beloved legacy transcends the feelings for most in his profession. His accomplishments were in political office, and he is strongly identified with the dominant party in Saskatchewan politics for the last 66 years. To suggest politicians should not have played some role in a ceremony honouring a former premier and national party leader is ridiculous.
Ms. Vivot should reflect on her inspiration to make the monument and ask whether her current threat befits her motivation, which at one time seemed quite moving and unselfish.
The Czechoslovakia-born sculptor was inspired to learn more about Mr. Douglas when she received free medical care after a car accident. She decided he deserved a statue to honour his role in medicare and says the project took her two years.
The threat to remove the statue because she didn't get the press coverage she wanted makes her now seem petulant and self-serving.
She need not worry that her name was not mentioned in initial stories, because her threat is getting national coverage.
As for moving the statue to Scotland, if there is a statue of Mr. Douglas it belongs in a community and a country where he is an icon, not a mere footnote.
If Ms. Vivot carries through with her threat -- and it could devolve into an ugly legal battle with Weyburn -- let's hope another artist would step forward with motives more closely aligned to those of the man being honoured.
"Democracy cannot be maintained without its foundation: free public opinion and free discussion throughout the nation of all matters affecting the state within the limits set by the criminal code and the common law." - The Supreme Court of Canada, 1938