In front of the St. Pierre Museum, a 15ft tall wood carving of an angel now stands where a 100-year-old maple tree once stood.
Rolly Gagne with the St Pierre-Joyls Museum, tells the story of trees' transformation.
"We had a severe windstorm which broke the limb about two ago and there was no way of saving the tree itself. Once the tops are broken there's a good chance that disease would set in. That’s when we had a conversation with an arborist and I said, 'I want to keep that stump and possibly bring in a local professional sculpturing to create a piece of art in the front of the museum.'"
Because it was a maple tree, Gagne says, they had hopes of keeping it as a reminder of the maple flavour in their town.
When trying to decide who to commission to do the woodcarving, Gagne says they wanted someone who would be able to match their own vision for the tree.
He notes that a friend of his, Robert Lehay, knew of Lawrence Friesen from Grunthal, who wasn’t doing woodcarving full-time but he was very talented.
"I tracked him on Facebook and I sent him a message and I asked him to come to our Sugaringoff Festival and display your carvings. He did and that’s how it all started."
Gagne says, "I hadn't targeted him for that limb (tree stump) at first, because I needed to be sure he would do a good job for us."
When Friesen saw the now mostly cut-down maple tree in the front yard of the museum, Gagne says, he could immediately see the artistic juices start to flow in Friesen and shared with him what he hoped Friesen could carve for them.
"Well, French Canadian Catholic. This is the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It was a teaching convent. We need something that represents that theme. Something with the theme of our French Catholic town."
To which Friesen says, "I looked at it. Walked around it and I'm standing there and I see the convent behind it, I'm like, 'Oh, there's only one thing it can be. It's an angel, it has to be.'" He continues explaining his vision to Gagne, "So those are the wings sticking up. It has to be an angel. That's that, I said there is no other option."
Gagne shrugged and said, "We could try it. Worse comes to worst, we can always cut it down and put up a monument of some kind."
So the wood carving project began on the morning of Saturday, April 1, and the start of the 2023 Sugaring Off Festival. With the basic outline of the angel completed by Sunday evening, April 2.
He notes the carving isn't finished. "So I will let it dry for a few months and then at the end of summer, I'll come back and do the detail work and paint it."
In the end, Gagne says, he trusted the artist. "I believe in the artists, the freedom of artistry, to stay within the bounds of our vision."
Gagne says the museum board is very happy with the carving.
"Well, for me it's the theme of our history, of our people here and like, you know, angels are a part of our Catholic belief. As well, the idea of having a pleasant aura on the museum grounds is definitely positive."
The angel can be seen in front of the St Pierre Museum, 432 Joubert St.