Friday, August 19, 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends...

A bit of a story today. Sorry if it runs a bit long.

A number of years ago The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse hired my firm to assist in their communications efforts. The Director of Communications was a chap by the name of Richard Garlick. Richard was quick with a laugh, would bike into work from his home in the Gatineau Hills, had an avid musical addiction and would cross-country ski his age in kilometers every year.

Richard kindly shared his passion regarding the issue of substance abuse with me. He taught me about issues such as harm reduction: where substance abusers are given the means of reducing the harm associated with their affliction, while giving them access into the health care system... That seems trite, a better source of information on the subject is here.

One day, he told me the Centre was interested in coming up with a yearly award for those who were outstanding leaders in the substance abuse field. Since the award would be given out by the wife of the Governor General of Canada at Government House a normal hockey-type trophy was, we agreed, out of the question. I set out to discover what was possible. I had an inkling that a bronze sculpture would be neat and Richard agreed. But I had never done one before. (Yikes.) I scoured the countryside for options...

I ended my search at the studio of Bruce Garner, a renowned Canadian artist. He was interested in the project. I went to Plantagenet to meet with him and his wife, Tamaya. A gracious, burly man, his handshake could cripple. We talked in length about the project.

I asked him if he'd allow me to sculpt the statue. He not only agreed, but gave me a lesson in the lost wax method and sent me away with a gift of enough wax to begin the process. We touched base over the length of the process. His kindness allowed me to learn and grow.

The result was an expression of three androgynous figures, each helping the other up. The lead figure's hand is raised in triumph.

Richard led the effort of course, with great interest. And a last minute change in direction was met with trust and confidence. Okay, I called him at the last moment and told him I wanted to redo the design and he agreed. Faith.

Bruce and Tamaya took care of the hard stuff and welcomed me into their home/studio to touch up the results of the molds.

The ceremony at Government House was a great success.

Several years later, Richard commissioned me to create a smaller version of the same award and Bruce again applied his skill and expertise with great care.

The original molds were destroyed in a cataclysmic fire at the Plantagenet studio later that year.

In 2009, Bruce Garner took a fall off a ladder which left him in a wheelchair with limited mobility and nearly no ability to speak. Bruce was moved to a nursing home to commence his long and difficult recovery. At last word, he continues to draw. (Update from Tamaya: Bruce didn't fall off a ladder but did take a tumble off their landing. Subsequent tests show Bruce had contacted progressive supranuclear palsy and in October, 2012 passed away at age 78.)

On Saturday, June 11, 2011 Richard Garlick died of cancer after a three-year battle.

When I think of this sculpture today, the meaning behind it – the love associated with it – I credit it to these two great, vibrant, intelligent and giving people. Thank you Richard, for your teachings, support and belief. And thank you Bruce, for your mentorship, good humor and robust love of life. I've learned from both of you. More than you know.



  1. A celebration of triumph is a celebration of life at its fullest!

    Beautiful sculptures! Do you know where they are now?


  2. Hi, no. There is probably a list of recipients if I wanted to look it up. Just glad they're out there somewhere.

  3. Could you make some more please?


  4. What a wonderful collaboration, and the sculpture is wonderful too. It sounds like a lot of fun to make a lost wax sculpture. Definitely more permanent art than a lot of us are going to make, and for such a good cause. Wishing Bruce the best with his recovery.

  5. Didn't you feature Bruce in a post about a year ago, Rand? I wonder if I thanked you for introducing us... I loved his work. Strong was the feeling that stuck with me.

    So the story of Bruce develops into something much more personal now, with you working on these marvelous trophy/statues. And for such a good cause.

    As usual, you make me think. This time of the many steps in dealing with affliction and addiction.

  6. Thank you Linda and Lynn Marie. As usual, thoughtful comments.

    Linda, bronze is an adventure and a long process, helped by others with expertise, but well worth it.

    Lynn Marie, I may have mentioned Bruce in a LI post when his accident happened. I'm sure I did.

    My business is exciting because I learn about the background of the subject matter in order to offer appropriate solutions. Richard was very generous with his time in this regard and Bruce was doubly so with his expertise.

    Without both this would not have happened in the successful manner it did. My admiration and prayers to both.