The Town of Battleford is situated close to where the Battle River flows into the North Saskatchewan. It was designated the capital of the North-West Territories in 1876. Many of the town’s early buildings have been maintained and are still in use, and the Fort Battleford Historic Site, the Fred Light Museum, and the historic North-West Mounted Police Cemetery are open to visitors on a seasonal basis.
While Battleford is a history enthusiast’s dream come true, the City of North Battleford has an entirely different feel to it. North Battleford was established on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River in the early 1900s when it became clear the Canadian National Railway (CNR) would bypass Battleford, by not crossing the river. Today, the Battlefords have a combined population of approximately 19,000, and are home to a vibrant, and varied artistic community.
I can’t tell a story in the white man’s language, so I say what I want to say with my paintings. – Allen Sapp
The artistic mix includes a performing arts troupe, music groups, two roadhouses for all entertainment tastes, and two pretty amazing world-class art galleries: The Allen Sapp Gallery, and The Chapel Gallery. In addition to a few outdoor murals, North Battleford especially, has also installed some really interesting pieces of public art. Here are a few:
- Don’t Fence Me In (top) by Donald R. Hefner, Saskatchewan Centennial 2005 (constructed from barbed wire). I love the symbolism of the barbed wire, and the texture, but in reality, the buffalo hunt had pretty much disappeared from the Canadian plains, and been replaced with cattle ranching, by the time the first settlers arrived in the 1880s-90s.
In 2014, The Prairie Sculptors Association held a two week symposium called Shapeshifters at The Chapel Gallery, “building a number of monumental sculptures from iron, wood and recycled materials.” A few of the finished sculptures remained near the Gallery, while two were relocated to the walking path between The Chapel Gallery and The Allen Sapp Gallery.
- A Man in a Canoe (above) by Kevin Quinlan (constructed with rebar). Interesting choice of location, just below the CNR freight yards, where it juxtaposes indigenous peoples’ method of transportation with the trains that brought in white settlers.
- Wapiti (above) by James Korpan (constructed with metals and found pieces). The word wapiti is an anglicized version of the Cree word for elk, which is waapiti. The full story here:
“… Across the Atlantic Ocean, Brits use elk to describe the animal we all know as a moose. When British settlers came to Canada, they saw how much larger our wapiti are than the European red deer, and they thought it had to be related to the European moose – or as they called them – elk. Despite its huge size, the wapiti is a type of deer; one of the largest species of deer, in fact.” – Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk
Both sculptures, A Man in a Canoe and Wapiti, are visible from the road, on the drive into North Battleford’s downtown core. The Wapiti is my favourite, and up close it is spectacular.