Spirit of Kelowna

The work is located inside the south entrance to City Hall.

The Work

One hundred and four cast-bronze medallions reflect the theme of community spirit.

The Project

One hundred and two of the medallions were designed and formed by Kelowna residents during a series of 10 workshops at the artist's studio between May and September 2007. The other 2 medallions were designed and formed by artist Geert Maas and project coordinator Elly Maas. Each medallion is a personal interpretation of the theme by the participants who were aged 10 and up. Each medallion also reflects a year of the City’s history, from its incorporation in 1905 to 2007.

Participants committed 15-20 hours of work to build a clay model, pour a plaster mold, and create a wax replica which was then sent to a local foundry for casting. Participants returned to the studio for the final work of applying patina and polishing. Geert and Elly Maas coordinated, guided, and supported participants, many of who did not have previous experience with the medium. The medallions were later installed on a specially-created wall in the foyer of City Hall. 

The genesis of this unique, collaborative project was the devastating Okanagan Mountain Park Fire of 2003, when the community rallied in an expression of determination and compassion. At this time, Kelowna’s community spirit shone particularly brightly.

The Okanagan Mountain Park Fire Recovery Society had gathered donations and distributed them to residents affected by the fire. When it concluded its operations, it transferred approximately $33,000 of remaining contributions to the City of Kelowna’s Public Art Program with a request for a commission that would pay tribute to Kelowna’s community spirit. The City subsequently launched a proposal call in August 2006 and from the 11 proposals received, a concept from local sculptor Geert Maas for the $60,000 commission was selected.

Judy Burns, Chairperson of the Public Art Committee at the time, commented, “Although this project was inspired by the fire in 2003, we wanted to create an art legacy which is not just about that one event. Kelowna’s community spirit isn’t reserved just for extraordinary circumstances—it is a constant, daily presence in our lives. It motivates our legions of volunteers, it raises our voices in enthusiastic support for our performers and athletes, and it inspires many quiet and sometimes unnoticed acts of kindness and civic pride. We’re encouraging everyone to reflect on that and create their own interpretation of the many different ways that community spirit can shine.”

In the words of Geert Maas, “The project strives to unify members of the community from all areas and neighbourhoods through citizen involvement. It encourages average citizens as well as individuals representing various groups to build new connections throughout the community.”
Other features of the installation include a cast-glass titling panel by local artist Carole Tetlow, and a photo wall documenting the project.

The Artist

Internationally acclaimed artist Geert Maas works in 2- and 3-dimensions in a variety of media. His disciplines include sculpture, painting, reliefs and medallion art.

Maas was born in The Netherlands, and received his formal art education at The Hague. In 1979, Maas moved to Kelowna with his family and established the Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens and Gallery which features one of the largest collections of bronze sculptures in Canada, and a diverse selection of his other artworks. Geert Maas' works have been shown in numerous exhibitions and are represented in prestigious public, corporate and private art collections worldwide. Other works by the artist in the City’s collection include Circle of Friendship and On the Beach.