Ponderings About The Importance of “Maud in the Garden”
By Kathy Wasylenky
Let me explain why I have been so passionate about the development of our Leaskdale Manse National Historic Site. I am first and foremost an advocate of UNESCO’s Creative Cities philosophy which recognizes tourism and culture as the lifeblood of a town or city. These concepts need to be given as much attention in municipal budgeting as infrastructure for sustainability, but too often they are dealt with as an afterthought in the budgeting process.
Celebrating, maintaining and enhancing the rich wealth of culture, knowledge and skills of societies is fundamental. Through literature, theatre, film, music, art and gastronomy, the economy and social development of a town is fostered and sustained. Public art is vital to the cultural richness of a community. It develops pride in its residents, increases knowledge of place and adds to the uniqueness of local identity. This is something that some community councils lose sight of in their quest for new growth and development. The “Maud in the Garden” project has provided a unique opportunity to recognize the importance of public art and to work with and promote local artists. In spearheading this unique cultural project, the LMMSO was fortunate to be able to work with Wynn Walters, well known and respected sculptor and artist. He has created a wonderful piece of art for all to identify with and admire.
As a cultural and artistic endeavour, “Maud in the Garden” is second only to the restoration and preservation of the National Historic Leaskdale Manse and the Historic Leaskdale Church in terms of the financial commitment. Our “Maud in the Garden” project adds much to the cultural richness of Uxbridge. The sculpture is also of national and international importance because it is the only bronze lifesized statue in existence of this universally-acclaimed writer.
It was a three-year journey from embryo to completion. We have worked with the sculptor, a well-known advocate of public art, to bring the statue to “life. Each stage of Maud’s development was challenging to both the artist and ourselves. Step by step, she has come together, creating a national and communal following along the way.Throughout the process the LMMSO, the community of Montgomery fans from around the world, the Leaskdale/ Uxbridge community and the artists of Uxbridge have shared in the dream. Each sector supported the project financially, artistically and socially, with encouragement and enthusiasm. What better sense of cultural identity and ownership can be created?
Each stage of the LMMSO’s fundraising met its target on time. By providing half the required funding, the Ontario Trillium Foundation signaled its recognition and support of this unique and important cultural endeavour. We have succeeded in making Uxbridge Township a tourist destination for the world.
This spring, Maud made her journey back to Leaskdale. I could hardly wait to sit beside her on the bench for a Kodak moment. Already so many fans have done the same – laughing but in awe, deep in thought as they take their turn to be photographed beside this amazing and beloved Canadian writer.
The unveiling was a grand affair – a cultural event of national significance. It was also truly significant as this statue has been a long overdue addition to the very few statues created to celebrate famous Canadian women.