Historic statues receive a new primer to protect against weather

A new look given to three iconic statues in Williams Lake may end up being permanent.

A new look given to three iconic statues in Williams Lake may end up being permanent to save costs on painting.

Local artist and muralist Dwayne Davis is in charge of the maintenance and repair work for the three statues. He applied the coat of primer that has given the statues their new look in preparation for the coming winter.

With basic maintenance and prep work done on the statues, the primer now seals out any moisture or damage and stands ready to be painted over. While the original intention was to repaint them in the spring, Davis is not sure if that would be the best option.

“I started to really look at them and I’m kind of leaning towards actually keeping them all white. I’ve gone to the city and talked with them and they will take it to the council to see if they want them repainted completely or just left white,” Davis said.

His reasoning for that is threefold. Artistically, he feels the stark white of the statues stands out far more than when they are coloured. As the purpose of these statues is to attract people into Williams Lake’s downtown core, Davis said the white catches the eye much easier.

From a maintenance and a close up aesthetic point of view, Davis said it also makes sense. As the two of sculptures are made from pine wood, pieces have broken off and been glued back on in addition to beetles and other insects eating away at them, leaving several blemishes in their wake.

Read More: Cowboy sculpture vandalized

With the pure white coat of primer, however, these imperfections are far better hidden, according to Davis, than when they are fully painted. In addition, such a simple paint job can be reapplied by anyone, not just Davis.

“I have pictures of them originally and I’ve been in on painting them the first time. I have a good idea of what the colours would be so I’d just repaint them back to what they were,” Davis explained.

For the bull riding statue the carver of all three of the statues, Ken Sheen, invited Davis to watch the carving take place and later apply the first coat of paint.

Glueing together several two by fours of locally sourced beetle kill pine from Tolko and West Fraser, Sheen carved the entire sculpture with a chainsaw, something that amazes Davis to this day. Having painted them multiple times he knows better than anyone how many fine details Sheen was able to put into these sculptures using such a traditionally destructive and brutish tool.

Finally, he believes they should stay white simply for the money it will save the city.

“The sculptures for me to repaint every time cost, for all three, you’re looking at probably $2,000 to $2,200 to have them all repainted,” Davis said. “The difference between them and the murals I normally work on is that the environment attacks the sculptures year round. Sun, wind, rain, birds, bugs, so with the sculptures they (require) a lot more upkeep.”

Read More: Painting the town Stampede

Davis said the statues give a sense of identity to Williams Lake and serve as landmarks for people visiting the city. Their strategic location near the Y intersection of Highway 97 and 20 has helped invite people into the city for years, in his opinion and anything that attracts more people to downtown Williams Lake is good to him.

Despite frequent bouts of vandalism to the statues over the years, the Heart of a Champion, the Mountain Race and the Cow Boss still stand proudly near the Y.

Each is dedicated to specific moments in the lakecity’s history, from honouring the memory of bull rider Gerald ‘Gerry’ James Palmantier who was described as having a heart of courage, to commemorating the old stampede tradition of racing down the mountain to the Stampede grounds.

Painted or not, these statues remain exquisite pieces of work that honour the past while drawing people into the city to become a part of its future.


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Angie Mindus photo The iconic Mountain Race statue at the Y intersection in Williams Lake commemorates the race of the same name founded in 1923. The statue was created by chainsaw artist Ken Sheen.

The Heart of a Champion statue was built in memory of Gerald “Gerry” James Palmantier — a rancher and bull rider born and raised in the Cariboo, and the grandson of Lennard Palmantier, one of the founders of the Williams Lake Stampede. Gerald lost his battle with bone cancer in 1996.

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