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Expect bears to have a long life

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SAY what you want to Richard Osen about his Bears on Broadway.

Just don't tell him that they are going to last only five months.

"Most of them will be around for a lot longer than that," says Osen, the veteran Winnipeg commercial sculptor who designed and built the original model for the smash-hit 62-piece display by CancerCare Manitoba.

"One's going to Vancouver. Four are going to the Lake of the Woods. Several will be scattered around Manitoba. I heard that Hartley Richardson was taking his to a property he owns in Montana."

As to the damage the concrete critters have suffered already at the hands of overzealous climbers since they were installed last week, Osen admits he and CancerCare organizers underestimated their "interactive" value.

"We may have been too successful in encouraging people to get involved with them," he says.

"I see them evolving from what they are into someone else's idea of what they should be."

Most of the attention regarding the bears' artistic component has been lavished on the visual artists who applied their personal touch with paint.

But without Osen, they would have had nothing to decorate.

He makes no claim that his latest sculpture is the equal of Michelangelo's David or Rodin's The Thinker, but he argues that the seven-foot-high polar bear is an artistic improvement over the cows and pigs that have dotted other cities' boulevards.

"The others were static and symmetrical," says Osen, 61, who has 30 years of experience designing everything from sculptural elements at Fort Whyte Centre and Oak Hammock Marsh to displays for the Manitoba Museum and the Manitoba Children's Museum.

"I wanted to suggest movement. I wanted to give it a gentle gesture to contrast with its being a large mythic figure."

Osen was paid close to $5,000 to design and build the original sculpture last October. It was complicated enough that it required a 22-piece mould.

"Richard has a vivid imagination and an amazing connection to nature," says Bill Stanton, an industrial designer who recommended Osen to CancerCare officials.

"But the best thing is that he's absolutely fearless. He will try anything once."

Osen was born in Kansas and grew up mostly in River Falls, Wis. He took an undergraduate degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

In 1972, he and his wife, Arlene, were lured to Winnipeg by a North Dakota friend who had settled here. He spent much of the next 15 years designing dioramas for the Manitoba Museum's various galleries.

Arlene, meanwhile, co-founded the local publisher Hyperion Press with Marvis Tutiah.

The couple lives north of the city on Henderson Highway, where Osen maintains his workshop. They have no children.

Osen painted two bears himself: the Golden Bear near the Legislative Building at Broadway and Osborne Street; and Sapputiwok the Road Safety Bear -- MPI.

Culture spending studied

MANITOBANS spent $770 million on all forms of culture in 2003, according to a national study released yesterday in Hamilton.

The figure represents more than three times the $240 million in subsidy to the sector by all levels of government. It also accounts for 3.4 per cent of total consumer spending in Manitoba.

The study, called Consumer Spending on Culture in Canada, was done by Hill Strategies Research using Statistics Canada data.

Spending by Manitobans on live performing arts ($31 million) was more than double the amount spent on live sports events ($15 million) in 2003, the study found.

Per capita, Winnipeggers' cultural spending ($800) ranked eighth among 15 metropolitan areas in Canada. Total cultural spending was $520 million in Winnipeg in 2003.

The study is available to view online at

Steinbach hosts authors

NOVELISTS Miriam Toews and Armin Wiebe will share the spotlight at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Steinbach at an informal discussion of Mennonite humour.

The event is being billed as Toews' first speaking engagement in her hometown since the 2004 release of her bestselling comic novel A Complicated Kindness.

Sponsored by the Steinbach Arts Council and the Mennonite Literary Society, this "writers' café" takes place at the Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre, 304 2nd St.

Tickets are $15. Seating is limited, so your best bet would be to contact the council by e-mailing

Opera offers travel

MANITOBA Opera still has a few tickets to sell for its Ultimate Luxury Lottery.

For $25, you stand a chance of winning one of four trips worth up to $6,000 to the destination of your choice.

The draw will be held Friday afternoon, but you can still get in under the wire. Call 957-3483. You can buy three tickets for $65 or five for $100.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2005 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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