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Statue went from Expo 67 to the University of Lethbridge

The journey of Moses.

BY TREVOR KENNEY | JUN 11 2012
Sorel Etrog's Moses as it appeared outside the American pavilion at Montreal's Expo 67.
Sorel Etrog’s Moses as it appeared outside the American pavilion at Montreal’s Expo 67.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of asking the question. When Van E. Christou and his family attended Expo 67 in Montreal, they had no idea they’d be coming home with a five-metre-tall, 1,800-kilogram souvenir for the University of Lethbridge.

“When we were walking around Expo, I was really struck by the art throughout the site, and I noticed that each sculpture was owned by the House of Seagram,” says Dr. Christou, at the time an inaugural board member of the university, which opened that year. “I called up our president, Sam Smith, and asked if he could get me a meeting with one of their representatives. The next day I spent an afternoon with Charles Bronfman, the CEO. At the end of our talk, I asked him what they were doing with all the sculptures when Expo was finished and he said they had no plans.”

So Dr. Christou made his pitch, telling the story of this new centennial university and how a significant art piece would make a wonderful gift to celebrate its opening. “He said go ahead, choose whatever one you want,” says Dr. Christou.

Moses as he now appears in his final resting place at the university. Seagram’s paid the cost of shipping Moses to Lethbridge and to erect the sculpture on its original site. Photo by Daniel Wood.
Moses as he now appears in his final resting
place at the university. Photo by Daniel Wood.

With family in tow, Dr. Christou and his wife Helen went shopping. They settled on a sculpture created by Romanian-born Canadian sculptor Sorel Etrog (who also designed the Canadian film award now known as the Genie). The sculpture originally resided near the American pavilion on the Expo 67 site. “People used to gather around it … it has that kind of presence,” says Dr. Christou. “It is a very powerful piece.”

Moses was originally installed at the university’s Lethbridge Junior College campus before being moved outside on the main campus in 1972. For more than four years Moses braved the weather and strong Chinook winds as best he could, but the statue developed a series of cracks and was taken down in 1977 for substantial repairs. Ready for his next, and final, journey, he was lowered through an unfinished roof in 1981 to his current resting place in the Centre for the Arts.

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  1. Jonathan Swainger / January 28, 2015 at 13:42

    As an undergraduate at U of L, we were told on countless occasions that Moses was, in fact, installed upside down! Wonderful how these stories gained currency.