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.
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.
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.