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Wanted: home for two Northern sculptures
Pieces hung from walls at now-closed Northern Frontier Visitors Centre; sculptor appeals for new space

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Yellowknife artist is looking for a new home for one Centaur and one Minotaur.

NNSL photograph

Yellowknife artist Monique Robert stands between her two papier mache sculptures hanging on the wall inside the now-closed Northern Frontier Visitors Centre. Robert said she wants to find a home for the works of art. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

Monique Robert said try as she might, she can't seem to find a home - permanent or temporary - for the two huge sculpture that spent seven years in the now shuttered Northern Frontier Visitors Centre.

The two creatures, made mostly of papier mache, give Greek mythology a Northern twist.

"A Centaur is normally a horse body with a man on the top with a bow and arrow. This one is an aboriginal man with a caribou body and he has a caribou antler as a bow," she said. "The other one is a Minotaur, which in Greek mythology is half-man and half-bull. This Northern one is half-aboriginal at the bottom and muskox at the top. They usually carry a sword but I created a a narwhal tusk for him to carry."

Real fur - polar bear, muskox and rabbit - was used in the sculptures.

Robert said she thought she had found a temporary place for them in a storage room at city hall but it turned out the space was too small for them.

The sculptures are six feet across, four feet high and three feet deep. They are not nearly as heavy as they look - at about 10 to 20 pounds - and are designed to be hung from a wall.

"They need a fairly high wall which is what I am having trouble finding," she said. "The airport was going to take them but they're doing renovations so they had some debate as to whether it was a good time for them."

Robert said she also approached the Chateau Nova Hotel and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre but neither have appropriate space for the sculptures, at least not at the moment.

The 10-year-old sculptures were initially displayed at an art gallery downtown before they had to be moved while the gallery was renovated. That's when they found their home at the visitor's centre.

As much as she wants to see them remain in a public space, she said she might donate them under the right circumstances. Robert said she will also entertain offers to buy them privately.

Tracy Therrien, general manager at the visitors centre, said the sculptures have been a real attraction for locals and tourists alike.

"They are amazing because they combine our culture with an entirely different culture," she said. "At first glance people didn't understand what they were and we would have to explain to them that they were half-man, half-caribou and half-muskox, half-man, playing off Greek mythology. Then they were fascinated with them."

Meanwhile, the visitors centre itself continues to operate out of the lobby of the nearby Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and at the airport.

Kyle Thomas, president of the Northern Frontier Visitors Association, which owns the visitors centre building and oversees its operation, said a permanent location for the centre has yet to be found.

"Getting operational was our immediate focus and once things are settled down again we will reconvene as a board to discuss our next steps," he said.

The future of the former visitors centre building is unclear since engineers deemed parts of it structurally unsafe last month.

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