29 July 2013

Girl With Cat

A recent visit to Saskatoon revealed a delightful family story. A sculpture by Arthur Price has pride of place in the entrance to the conservatory of the Mendel Art Gallery and Civic Conservatory.
Girl With Cat has been fascinating children for almost fifty years; (not the best) photo, BDM July 2013.  
Here's a better one:

Opened in 1964, the Mendel borrowed the sculpture for display the next year and it became very popular. Children especially were charmed with its life-size presence and hands-on appeal. But the cost to buy it was beyond the means of the young gallery. That's when my little cousin Caroline got involved. Even as a nine-year-old, she was quite familiar with visiting the new cultural centre. Girl With Cat enthralled her, reflecting a large portion of public opinion. With no fund-raising underway, she wrote a letter to the director, sending money she and her brother had saved toward the sculpture's purchase.

One dollar and nineteen cents.

Saskatoon's StarPhoenix recently did a story on this, "Childhood Gift Keeps on Giving." [Sorry, the printing is in blue pencil.]

Caroline's letter sparked a campaign in the city, mostly among children's organizations and activities. Thus the sculpture became a proud permanent acquisition in 1970. No telling what a determined little redhead can accomplish! Visitors are encouraged to stroke the cat and the girl's hair; little ones will even join her in the rocking chair.

Very sadly, Caroline died before her time in 2010. She was in the happiest years of her life, a career in elementary school counselling her great joy. Her husband dedicated a nearby bench in the conservatory to her.

It chokes me up every time I see this lovely photo of brother and sister in later life.

© 2013 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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