Totem pole at new school designed to bring people together

Published on July 25, 2014

The notes haven’t been painted on a sheet of music and an empty frame waits for a photo, but amid a pile of wood shavings sits Andy Ward’s latest masterpiece, all but complete.

Over the past year while the walls of the New Glasgow Academy were being built, Ward has been quietly working on a project to symbolize the union of multiple schools into one.

The totem pole carved out of pine will be placed in the new school. On it are images that Allison Wilson, principal of the school, hopes will make everyone feel welcome.

“We were trying to think of something unique for the school and that would make us stand out from other schools, while at the same time make the kids come in and feel welcome and that everyone was together.”

After brainstorming as a group, Helen Boucher who works at the school, made a clay model of what they were looking for and presented it to Ward. He made his own recommendations and then went to work.

The result is a carving that will stand 19 feet tall, is three feet at the base and includes pieces expressing different interests and cultures.

“It’s really nice for the kids to see themselves in the new school,” Wilson said.

Ward has done numerous projects throughout the Maritimes and a few in the States. One of the most recognizable was the ‘Canada Bereft’ carving of a woman, based on the carving at Vimy Memorial in France, that stood for years on East River Road.

But this school project is one of the biggest he’s done.

The main pine log came from Andy MacKay and some additional pieces, which were used to create the cats that seem to crawl right out of the wood.

He built a makeshift shelter with plastic sheets tacked to it, because his usual workshop wasn’t big enough to house the project. He had to put scaffolding around it to climb up and down while he carved.

“I did a little bit in January I guess and all through the winter, but just little bits at a time because it’s so cold. There’s no heat here.”

He’s surprised in a way no wind blew it over.

To start the project, he used a chainsaw and then worked his way down in tools to a hammer and chisel.

“I liked it all,” he said. “The challenge is good.

“The round balls is probably one of the trickiest things to get them to be round. I don’t know if they’re exactly right.”

Ward has used a flat finish to preserve the natural wood look as well as a little paint to give it colour.

One of the unique features of the pole will be a replica of the top of the Temperance Street School.

“It goes right on top,” Ward said. “I’m going to put glass in and sandblast the date of each school when they were constructed.”

On top of the peak is a bird known as the Sankofa bird. The bird holds an egg in its mouth and is a symbol in an African American and African Diaspora context to represent the need to reflect on the past to build a successful future.

The totem pole will be placed inside the school where the regulated temperature will keep it from rotting.

Looking at it, Ward is pleased with how’s it’s turned out.

“When you’re all done, sometimes you wonder how you did it.”

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What is it? A totem pole to symbolize the schools that are coming together to form New Glasgow Academy

Size:  19 feet tall and three feet in diameter at the base

Carver: Andy Ward of Churchville

Type of wood: Pine

Tools used: Chain saw, chisel, grinder