A Millarville-area artist and blacksmith has created a tribute to — and with — frontline workers.
Hewn from metal and dubbed Forged Community, the statue was the initiative of James and Cheryl Greisinger, a blacksmith and regenerative farmer, respectively, who operate Forge and Farm northwest of Millarville.
For James, the project came about truly organically.
“During COVID we were deemed essential, so teaching classes, but who was signing up changed and unbeknownst to me, the doctors, firefighters, nurses and teachers signing up were finding it incredibly therapeutic," he said.
The statue, a maple leaf standing roughly two metres tall, includes numerous veins forged from railroad spikes hammered into shape by those very workers.
“It was part of their healing, me getting to know them and saying, ‘Thank you for all you do, and here’s a hammer, here’s a forge, let’s forge out a vein,'” James said.
"I figured if I could give these folks a purpose and a reason to exercise the other side of their brain, it would maybe be one more step on their journey of healing, because an incredible amount of pressure has been put on those folks.”
Grant funding for the project came from the Celebration and Commemoration Fund of Canada, Cheryl explained.
“We thought about how we could use this, and this was happening at the same time where James was having these students out that were finding therapy for PTSD,” Cheryl said.
“But there was also the potential funding for in-person events that bring communities together, so we wanted to invite frontline workers who maybe didn’t know about him or the classes or that it was a potential method to help with the issues they were having."
Connecting with these workers gave the couple an insight into the challenges and struggles they were enduring.
“For Cheryl and I to be out here and hear firsthand what they’re seeing and dealing,” James said.
“Like a 6-foot-6 firefighter is hugging me going, ‘Thanks man, I really needed this’, and it’s just been my work, it’s just what I do, but the therapeutic aspect of being artistic and the rhythm of standing by a fire and talking with colleagues outside of the hospital, outside of the fire hall was so healing for them.”
Now nearing completion, the Greisingers hope to see the statue installed in a public space, possibly around Diamond Valley.
“Then Cheryl and I came up with this idea to have the sculpture that could be an opportunity to forge a component and be proud of some art that’s going to stand in a public space,” James said.
For more information about the Greisingers and their projects visit forgeandfarm.ca.