Bob Williams with his grandchildren at the unveiling today. Photo courtesy of APC.
Polar Bear Sculpture Commissioned by $1 Million Donor as a Gift to the Park Unveiled at Zoo Entrance
The Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) unveiled a bronze polar bear sculpture today at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. The original sculpture by Manitoba artist Peter Sawatzky was commissioned by Bob Williams as a gift to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC).
Williams, President and CEO of Swancoat Investments Ltd., was raised in St. James across from Assiniboine Park. He is a former chair of Polar Bears International, a leading polar bear conservation group, and an avid collector of Canadian art. His lifelong love for the Park and personal passions are reflected in this gift.
“The memories I have of Assiniboine Park have shaped me as an individual and influenced my life’s path,” said Williams. “I am very pleased to support the redevelopment of Assiniboine Park and Zoo and to donate this beautiful work of art inspired by the polar bear, an animal that is central to raising awareness about the impacts of climate change and the visitor experience at Assiniboine Park Zoo.”
The 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture, entitled “Mother Polar Bear and Cubs”, has been installed in the plaza outside the Zoo’s new entrance. Sawatzky, an award-winning Manitoba artist, has earned international recognition for his art. His sculptures inspired by wildlife and the natural environment are on display across Canada and in collections around the world.
“This life size statue welcomes you to the new Assiniboine Park Zoo, but also sends a message about environmental responsibility,” added Williams. “Often a mother bear will stand up to see if there is any danger ahead for her cubs. The real danger is the loss of her habitat; her environment is shrinking. We can help by reducing our impact on the environment.”
Williams, a founding member of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy Board of Directors, was one of the early leadership donors toward the Imagine a Place Campaign, having made a gift of $1 million.
“Art in all its forms is an essential part of the Assiniboine Park experience,” said Margaret Redmond, President & CEO, Assiniboine Park Conservancy. “We are grateful to Mr. Williams for his leadership, for the gift of this beautiful and meaningful piece of art, and for his generous support of Assiniboine Park and Zoo.”
To date, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s fundraising efforts through the Imagine a Place Campaign have raised over $128 million towards the overall $200 million redevelopment goal.
Assiniboine Park Redevelopment
Phase I of the redevelopment plan consisted of the now complete Heart of the Park component and included the Nature Playground, expansion of the Riley Family Duck Pond, and the Qualico Family Centre. Phase II consists of a dramatic transformation of the Zoo, with significant renovations, new exhibits, enhanced facilities for visitors, and a more visible and active contribution to environmental and wildlife education, research, and conservation in Manitoba. The next phase will see the development of the new Assiniboine Park Conservatory to be situated in the south east corner of the Park near the Formal Gardens.