Bear is a tribute to Kelowna’s settlement on the shores of Okanagan Lake. The theme of the artwork is a grizzly bear, “Kelowna” being an English translation of the Okanagan / Syilx First Nation word for “grizzly bear”. A steel frame in the shape of a grizzly bear encloses symbols that represent periods of Kelowna’s history. The boat-like shape at the base is a reference to the role the lake has played in the evolution of the community and the shaping of its identity.
The artwork was commissioned as the centrepiece of Stuart Park which was constructed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kelowna’s incorporation as a municipality. In 2003 a competition was launched to design and install public art in the new park. The aim of the competition was to select a candidate who would work with the park design team to integrate the art into the park concept. The budget for the commission was $160,000. Sixty thousand dollars was allocated from the Public Art Program and the balance came from the Park’s construction budget.
Thirty-two submissions were received, with the submission by Brower Hatcher being recommended by the evaluation panel. The artwork was installed in September 2010. In making his submission, Brower commented: “My intent was to develop an image that would be important to the community, but also one of charm and fascination to the passerby. I wish it to be arresting enough that people will stop and look, to pace down, and spend time looking at the image and then the lake and the view. The bear would be a focal point of the park, the support structure forms a pergola-like gateway to Stuart park and the lake. The structure would attract a great deal of interest and focus attention on the extraordinary setting of the waterfront.”
“The work is scaled to be monumental in the site with sufficient headroom so that pedestrians can easily pass beneath. The materials are all selected for durability and are based on my 30-year history of building works with similar techniques.”
“The bear is made of two structural layers. The inner layer is a powder coated welded stainless steel framework. Onto this framework is bolted, using stainless steel and brass hardware, an inner level of tetrahedral geometry also of powder-coated stainless steel. The outer layer is again built of powder-coated stainless steel rods with compression fitted connections. Within the structure are referential images of bronze, glass, and found objects that represent periods of Kelowna’s history from early artifacts of Okanagan people to contemporary times. These symbols include references to fruit orchards, Kettle valley, and forest fires.”
From an interview with the artist in the September 4, 2010 issue of The Okanagan: “The sculpture references the constellations…and its latticework emphasizes the concept of interconnectedness: there is no centre; we are interlinked.”
“The see-through nature of the bear is also representational…the concept of transparency – everything is seen, all is revealed.”
“A community needs to be self-reflective…that’s why we’re putting the bear here: to reflect upon, to become more self-aware of ourselves and our community; for our social well-being and the betterment of the whole.”
Brower Hatcher was born in Atlanta, GA. He attended Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in Nashville, TN and received his degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute in New York. He then studied sculpture at St. Martins School of Art in London, U.K. with Sir Anthony Caro and William Tucker. He was on the faculty at St. Martins for several years and returned to the U.S. to join the faculty of Bennington College where he taught for 13 years. Hatcher ceased teaching in 1986 and has built many public art projects since then.