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Bears on Broadway

From May through October 2005 Winnipeg’s Broadway Avenue was an amazing sight. Sixty-seven of the most beautifully designed and decorated seven-foot-tall precast polar bears graced the median strip on Broadway from the CN Station to Memorial Boulevard. “Bears on Broadway” was a fundraiser commemorating the 75th Anniversary of CancerCare Manitoba.

Inspiration for “Bears on Broadway” came from other similar public art displays beginning with Chicago’s cows in 1999. Since then, Toronto has displayed moose and Vancouver has displayed orca whales. Most displays made use of fiberglass models that created a problem for the anatomically correct spindly-legged moose in Toronto whose legs would snap too easily.

Lafarge was originally approached to make concrete pedestals for fiberglass sculptures but after careful consideration by their precast production team, it was decided that precast bears made more sense.

With the help and expertise of Winnipeg’s Lafarge Precast Division, the Bears made their debut in May and remained to the end of October. Bears on Broadway had been named one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Canada for 2005 by Where Magazine.

Artist Richard Osen’s 7- inch statuette design was so strong; its appeal so genuine that its essential character shines through the seven-foot-tall precast polar bears. Winnipeg’s local artistic community developed designs for the decoration of bears for sponsors and bears were sold to the corporate and government sector for donations of either $10,000 or $12,500. It was anticipated that “Bears on Broadway” would raise over $400,000, they actually raised over $500,000 for cancer research and patient care in Manitoba.

Casting is basically a three –step process. First you make a full –scale model of the sculpture you want to reproduce. Next, you use that model to create the mould, which is a hollow, 3D reverse image of the model. Finally you fill the hollow with your material of your choice. Wait till the filling has hardened remove the mould and there inside is a perfect replica of the original model.

Lafarge’s Winnipeg Precast team produced all sixty-two 8,000 pound bears. Lafarge precast staff has been guests on CBC radio, and have been interviewed by other media. The bears themselves have become celebrities, winning the hearts of Winnipeggers and attracting wide media coverage.

It made good sense that Winnipeg was host to “Bears on Broadway.” Winnipeg is, after all, home to Winnie the Pooh!

The beloved icons are back!
Eighteen of CancerCare Manitoba Foundation's Bears on Broadway are now living on Assiniboine Ave. behind the Manitoba Legislature, seven are residing at the Norquay Building (401 York at Kennedy), and the rest have gone to their permanent homes. Check out for more details.

Production sequence of the bears:

•The artist creates a small scale model of the bear
•The image is transferred to a larger scale and a with the aid of a computer generated model, a fiberglass mould was created.
•The mould is made in 21 different pieces to allow for stripping.
•The base is poured with rebar sticking out
•The mould is assembled on the base and joints are caulked and sealed.
•The bear is cast
•The bear is stripped from the mould
•The base and the bear are moved to a staging area where they await a grinding of the joints.
•The joints are ground smooth and the bear is sack rubbed, to fill voids and make the surface uniform.
•The bear cures and awaits transportation to another facility to await their final decoration by the artists.

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