Brothers Aaron (left) and David Jacob Harder in the Spears Road studio where they fabricated “Together,” a public art installation that will soon stand in front of the Minoru Centre for Active Living in Richmond. Lindsay Chung photo

Quesnel artists create large-scale public art piece for City of Richmond

Brothers David and Aaron Harder spent 2,000 hours fabricating “Together” sculpture

Lindsay Chung

Observer Contributor

The community of Quesnel plays a big part in a large steel sculpture that is meant to represent the community of Richmond and will soon stand as a sign of arrival and entry at the city’s new Minoru Centre for Active Living.

Brothers David Jacob Harder and Aaron Harder, who were born and raised in Quesnel, and their team have created a large-scale public art installation entitled “Together,” which is meant to be a representation of the community, made up of hundreds of steel silhouettes of people and elements of the area that come together to form a sculpture of two larger-than-life figures: an adult and child walking hand-in-hand to the entrance of the new multi-use complex in Richmond.

Aaron still lives in Quesnel, while David divides his time between here, Wells and the Shuswap area. They worked on the sculpture together in Quesnel, and members of the community were able to see the 18-foot sculpture last month before it went down to Kamloops for the finishing touches.

“In the initial phase, I came up with an idea of what we wanted to do and drew up the concept and premise behind it to see if it was even possible,” says David. “Having worked with my brother and him having a background in construction and making pieces of his own, we sat down and drew up as many ideas as we could.”

Once the Harders settled on their idea, they made up a maquette – a smaller-scale model of the piece.

“From there, we knew in principle we could transfer this to an 18-foot-tall sculpture,” says David. “For me, the biggest thing was making sure we had a representation of the community and making sure they are all part of it.”

David travelled to Richmond and spent time going through the archives and looking through old photographs, and also meeting hundreds of people in the community and taking photos of them doing activities that take place at the Minoru Centre.

“The silhouettes of the piece are real people from the community of Richmond,” he explains. “I took hundreds of photos and brought them back and figured out how to turn them into full steel figures.”

David and Aaron have worked together on several art pieces over the years.

“It’s been fantastic,” Aaron says of working with his brother on such a large project. “Moving forward from here, we will be pursuing other large-scale projects together as a team. Knowing how well working together has gone and being able to play off each other’s skillsets has given us the ability to do this as a team, as well as collaborate with other artists.”

The City of Richmond put out an open call for public art submissions, and the Harders found out their piece had been chosen in early February.

“All the fabrication was done by hand,” explains Aaron. “Each piece was cut by hand and ground and hand-shaped to fit into the composition and then welded in place.”

It was all formed over a large-scale foam figure, which sat outside Aaron’s studio on Hydraulic Road.

“It was definitely a topic of conversation for a little bit,” he laughs.

The Harder brothers brought in artist Karl Mattson from Rolla, B.C. to help, as well as consulting Joseph Sanchez from New Mexico as an advisor, because the piece includes so many different cultures and perspectives, and they wanted to pay homage to the Musqueam, on whose traditional territory the Minoru Centre sits.

“For this particular work, we are interested in representing the community and its characteristics as one human figure composed of hundreds of silhouettes of people and identifiers from the neighbourhood and surrounding area,” the Harders write in their artists’ statement.

“Essentially, we are looking for the piece to compose the community and the community together to collectively make a positive figure and icon. Conceptually, this composition will reflect the positive messages of inclusion and diversity, all the while paying respects to the history of the area and the many activities of its residents. The artwork is a pluralistic form with a multiplicity of referentials alluding to community, education, activities, history, celebration and collaboration. With this work, we look to identify where each individual helps compose the greater sum – and with the creation of this artwork also hope to apply such concepts in as literal a fashion as possible.”

David says they started building the foam character toward the end of April and sent the steel sculpture to Kamloops to be sandblasted and powder-coated Sept. 14, and there were probably about 2,000 hours of actual steel fabrication in that time.

The piece is set to be installed in Richmond this fall.

Before shipping the “Together” sculpture to Kamloops, the Harders held an open house at their Spears Road studio.

“Since so many people were kind of interested in it, and people were seeing the foam character, and something like this of this scale probably hasn’t been done in Quesnel that we know of, and because we’d done so much work and we’re both from here, it’s part of our community,” says David. “Even though it’s part of the Richmond community, it’s part of our community too.”

Aaron saw a lot of value in inviting the community into the studio. He says part of the reason to have the open house was “to engage the community and let them experience artwork and see the value in it.”

“That’s something both me and my wife are passionate about,” he says. “Lee-Anne [Chisholm] does murals in town, and it’s great to see the impact art can have on a small community – not only on things like tourism, but also a positive impact on people’s attitudes.”

David says they had a great turnout.

“Being able to be creative – that’s a huge part of many cities, but you don’t always get to see it,” he says. “But when you get to see it a little more and a little more, it creates a community of culture. It’s cultivating that culture.”

READ MORE: Quesnel couple working on new Rink 2 mural

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Beginning work on the frame. David Jacob Harder photo

The sculpture frame in the studio. David Jacob Harder photo

A view from the inside of the finished piece. David Jacob Harder photo

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