Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Unveiling of "Our Emily" - October 13, 2010

With high hopes of free cake and chocolate, I ran through the streets of downtown Victoria, BC, with autumn leaves swirling in my wake.

Blinded by sunlight, I tripped through the gardens at the Empress Hotel, not only hoping for a sugar-high (as advertised in that mornings’ newspaper), but to also witness the unveiling of the statue made in honour of iconic artist and writer, Emily Carr. It was perfect weather for a most historic event.

I bustled through Girl Guides, local dignitaries, band members of the Reynolds Secondary School Band, and the “Three Emily’s” - all present to make the day even more special than it already was. I forged on, my desperation for cake and chocolate still present, and I was met with countless Emily fans shielding their eyes from the sun. Folks from all ages leaned on fences, peered through bushes, and sat on the grass in front of the stage waiting for action (the gardeners won’t be too happy).

I plowed my way through the crowd, watched the fabulous cake being wheeled out (stomach grumbling), and sweated it with the chefs as they transferred the artistically decorated cake from the dolly to the serving table. Oh wait! There is juice too! And with cut-up lemons! What a day this will be!

Continuining to where the statue sat veiled at the corner of Belleville and Government Street, kitty-corner to the Legislative Building, I was met with yet another crowd. Parts of the street had been closed-off, making room for us Emily fans. Although drivers honked and whistled (they didn’t have a clue what was going on), the avid followers and admirers of one of the city’s most revered artists waited patiently, many on tip-toe, straining to get a glimpse of the statue still under wraps.

When speeches were done, members from the Reynolds Secondary School Band led the dignitaries to the statute, madly playing their instruments while elbowing onlookers out of the way.

The “Three Emilies” made their way to the statue, and the paparazzi readied themselves. We novice paparazzi pushed forward, readying our own cameras, anxious to get a decent shot - even if someone`s head was in the way.

“The Emily’s” in question dressed in garments as portrayed in photos of their heroine. These girls had it down pat. They posed, smiled and chatted most patiently. Evident from their ever-present grins, their “Emily” spectacles glinting in the sun, it was clear they love what they do. One “Emily” works at Emily Carr’s house on Government Street. The second, from Calgary, was used as a body model for the creation of the statue. And the third “Emily,” as I was told, has portrayed Emily Carr on Broadway for 45 years.

Once everyone was in place, the paparazzi took aim and the bronze statue, created by Barb Paterson of Edmonton, AB, was unveiled. We cheered, clapped, 'oohed' and 'ahhed,' and yet again, fought to get the perfect picture - but not before we sang the national anthem.

And yes, on the street corner.

I had to continue with my day, and with the line-ups for cake and chocolate too long for my stomach to wait, I left the festivities weak with hunger and low on sugar. But aside from my gluttonous ways, I was thrilled and proud to have been part of history - just a few blocks away from the house where Emily Carr was born.

One of the fabulous cakes created.

(for more information on artist and writer Emily Carr, visit

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