Some fear that the monument,
conceived by Irving's dad, psychotherapist and sculptor
Michael Irving, could go the way of Leonardo's horse,
a 24-foot monument for the Duke of Milan. When the
duke suddenly found he needed all his bronze for weapons,
the casting was delayed and the duke's enemies used
the clay horse for target practice. That kind of fate
for the survivors monument would be a great tragedy,
and a shame in this city of millionaires.
Inspired by the Vietnam War Memorial,
Michael Irving equates the experience of child abuse
to life in war. Encountering him as a fellow community
artist in 1993, I didn't understand how his worthy
idea could be accomplished or how it would be something
anyone could bear to look at.
But Irving found a way. In workshops
held across the country, he cast the hands of survivors
in wax so that, even if they couldn't reveal their
names, their identities would be represented. He taught
them to sculpt so they could surround their handprints
with words and images.
I was part of the crew that put the
monument together in 2000 with the help of a Millennium
grant. We draped two 12-foot-high figures with quilts
flowing from their outstretched arms. Each square
is a journey, a kaleidoscope of imagery. There are
guardian dragons, chains, walls, eyes, mouths, tears,
cascading bells and teddy bears, angels fluttering
like butterflies. Mike Irving was prostituted as a
child, and he filled his square with tiny toys, the
treasures of a lost childhood.
My job was to make rubber moulds of
the survivors' artworks and cast them in wax. It was
an exciting time: musicians played on volunteer nights,
enthusiasts arranged receptions and tours to attract
the wealthy, and those who'd created squares visited
as we worked.
Among the monument volunteers were
Imants Kruze and Mara Kruze, parents of Martin Kruze,
who first revealed the sexual abuse that occurred
at Maple Leaf Gardens. He committed suicide after
his abuser was sentenced to only two years in jail.
At the family's request, a cast was taken of his hand
in the funeral home.
Martin Kruze's father believes that
the Survivor Monument could perform vital services
by assisting in healing, counselling vigilance and
even helping child victims to disclose. "Look
how long that was happening to Martin," says
Kruze, "and we never knew. A monument like this
in a public place could help kids realize that they're
not alone, so they could reach out for help. If it
helps even one kid, it's all worthwhile."
There was considerable corporate, government
and agency support for educationsal activities carried
out under the umbrella of the survivor monument project.
Irving was invited to create posters and brochures
that used survivors' imagery, and to set up displays
and visit schools. "If the monument could have
been paid for as social programming, it would have
been finished in 2001," he says.
So while there has often been a flurry
of activity around the monument, money to turn it
into bronze has been elusive.
The site was also a problem. The monument
fell outside the city's definition of public art.
Queen's Park was Michael Irving's original dream,
a place both public and contemplative. But a lengthy
attempt to convince the province was unsuccessful.
Under the influence of current federal
Minister of Social Development Ken Dryden, Toronto
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment rescued the project
by contributing money and a site at the Air Canada
Centre. Chief operating officer Tom Anselmi affirms
the commitment of his organization. "Given the
history of Maple Leaf Gardens, making sure that it
gets finished is important to us."
As the wax figure cracks and crumbles,
the delay also wears on the participants. The first
figure has languished at the foundry since 1999 and
could be cast for $150,000. Another $206,000 will
finish the second figure.
Will Andras describes a frequent problem
faced by the fundraising team: "We usually get
to the point where we're ready for something to go
forward and then things start to crumble or unravel.
I think part of it is that the issue is something
people just don't like to deal with."
A survivor whose family experienced
abuse over several generations tells me how she searched
for her late mother's quilt square. "One day
when I wasn't feeling the greatest, I went looking
for it because I didn't know that it hadn't been cast.
Not finding it at the Air Canada Centre was quite
devastating because my mom worked so hard. So I got
on the phone and asked Michael, 'Where is it?'"
Irving's strength makes it easy to
forget that he's also a survivor and that every delay
is also a delay in his own resolution. It's a drain
on his family, which is maxed out and multiple-mortgaged.
The family has abandoned hope of recouping its losses,
but the monument's completion will enable them to
It's time for the rest of the city
to get on side and, in Zac Irving's words, "get
the damn thing finished."