Cheers of gratitude filled Bruce Schmaltz’s outdoor steel sculpture gallery on July 4, as the Ucluetian restaurateur and art enthusiast handed a $2,000 cheque to the Wild Pacific Trail Society.
“Anytime you can donate to an organization like this that is contributing not only for this year, but perhaps the next 300 years, it’s just a great feeling,” Schmaltz told the Westerly News. “The donations of time and energy that the average person on the Trail Society puts in is greater than the dollars, but you need dollars to make things work also; it’s a form of energy and my wife [Monique] and I are very proud to contribute to it.”
The trail’s innovator and manager ‘Oyster’ Jim Martin was elated by the donation and told the Westerly that Bruce and Monique have been key and consistent contributors to the society’s efforts.
“We just love having them here in our community and we’re thrilled that they are engaging the public the way they are in this location. This cheque is a result of that interaction and it just underlines the support for the trail community-wide and even wider than that,” Martin said. “It’s very gratifying from a personal and a society aspect to have support like we have from these two…It just feels really really good.”
The money stemmed from donations drawn in by the ‘Wanderer’s Tree’, a steel sculpture created by artist Mike Camp. The tree stands at the corner of Bay Street and Peninsula Road and residents and visitors are encouraged to write a message on an oyster shell from Schmaltz’s nearby food truck Oyster Forte and hang it on the tree for a donation.
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The tree was planted within Schmaltz’s steel art garden in 2015 and, Schmaltz said, it has brought strong “cathartic” emotions from those that stop by it to write a message.
“It performs some type of function, I don’t pretend to know what it is, but I see a tremendous satisfaction in people for just that second of collecting their thoughts, collecting their images and putting it on a shell as precise as possible. That seems to give them a great feeling of, perhaps, worth in our busy society,” he said adding that he enjoys speaking to visitors and explaining where their donations are going. “That chit-chat back and forth I think broadens my view of what life is about.”
The donation event also gave Schmaltz an opportunity to unveil his newest addition to his growing public art display as ‘The Wolf’ joined ‘Surfer Girl’, the ‘Wanderer’s Tree’ and the locally revered ‘Raven Lady’ at the site.
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All four pieces were created by Camp and Schmaltz said ‘The Wolf’ meshes perfectly with the spirit of the Wild Pacific Trail.
“It represents the wildness. It represents that feeling of being in nature,” he said. “When we’re out in the forest, I think we feel a whole different thing in ourselves, in our nature, in our spirit. It brings something to us that perhaps we’ve lost in our civilization of big cities and concrete. It’s a reconnection at a deep level.”
Camp told the Westerly he spent about a year creating the 2.5-metre tall, 3-metre long, steel wolf at his secluded Ontario cabin and hopes it encourages viewers to reconnect with their natural surroundings.
“Most of us live in cities now and we’re over civilized and over domesticated and this is hopefully an image of raw primitive nature, man’s inherent nature struggling to get out,” he said. “I think with technology and all the machines doing everything for us, we’ve lost some of that connection with nature.”
Schmaltz has long been a fan of Camp’s work and said displaying it out in the open allows viewers to engage more meaningfully.
“Art is really important to be able to come up to and be able to touch. I don’t care for those that jump on it, but I do think it should be accessible,” he said.
“Art is part of us, so we have to be able to access that part of us. It’s done in a public manner like this so people can come up, think about it, meditate on it and great art is a thing that transports you just for a second; it takes us out of our everyday funky life and we see something greater than ourselves.”