A phoenix sculpture, created by Argenta artists Spring Shine, Christopher Petersen, and Yvonne Boyd is set ablaze in 2019.

A phoenix sculpture, created by Argenta artists Spring Shine, Christopher Petersen, and Yvonne Boyd is set ablaze in 2019.

Castlegar Sculpturewalk plans First Night celebration

Event will see a sculpture commissioned and then burned to mark the winter solstice.

Castlegar Sculpturewalk will hold a First Night celebration at Millennium Park on Dec. 21 where a sculpture will go up in flames.

A team of local artists will be commissioned to create a large wooden sculpture, built from reclaimed wood, which will then be burned ceremonially, accompanied by drummers.

In a memo to city council, Sculpturewalk described it as a “powerful communal event which celebrates beauty, creation, metamorphosis and rebirth.”

The piece will be built in Argenta and then brought to Castlegar, where it will remain in place for at least a week prior to the First Night celebration, which Sculpturewalk noted will be a first for the city.

Sculpturewalk hopes to also announce this year’s awards winners at the same time.

The organization obtained $4,750 for the project from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance last year to pay the artists and ship the piece to Castlegar, but COVID-19 restrictions scuttled plans to hold the event last December.

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The event is not without its detractors. Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said Monday she has heard from three residents opposed to the celebration, describing it as “a waste of money that could be put back into the program for something permanent.”

For some, it also brought back memories of fires lit in the 1950s by the Sons of Freedom.

“They didn’t think it was something Sculpturewalk should be doing,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff said.

Mayor Kirk Duff said he also received a call from one resident with similar concerns.

City manager Chris Barlow said fire chief Sam Lattanzio was initially worried about the type of material to be burned, but was satisfied to learn it would all be clean scrap wood. Although the sculpture will be tacked together with a few nails, they will be recovered with a magnet after it is burned.

In the end council gave its blessing with only Heaton-Sherstobitoff opposed.