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July 10, 2009

Following Suit

This Friday morning Seven Days intern Mike DiBiasio and I went down to the Burlington Waterfront and found ourselves following a small herd of men in suits. That's how we knew we were going to the right place, and event: a bilingual dedication ceremony for a sculpture given to us--that is, Vermont--by those nice people from Quebec. Actually, they were reciprocating for a stone monument the nice people of Vermont gave to Quebec City for its quadricentennial last year. Of course, we are both beholden to Samuel de Champlain, without whom a college, a chocolate company, a convenience-store chain, a dental laboratory and our lake would have to be called something else.

But I digress. As the Quebec Minister of International Relations Pierre Arcand noted, our state and his province are linked by not just the coming of a French explorer 400 years ago but by many interests, concerns and values--and, of course, a border. He and Vermont dignitaries with less perfect French--Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, Gov. James Douglas and Sen. Patrick Leahy--emphasized the enduring friendship of our governments and our shoppers, er, our citizens.

Which brings me to the sculpture. Created by Jacek Jamuszkiewicz, a Polish(?) immigrant to Quebec, the tall, slender work in steel features two vertical fronds that sort of hug each other, but not quite--kind of an air hug--as well as a couple of "leaves" near the top, with a bunch of  letters. This description is not doing it justice, so it's a good thing Mike videotaped the event (thanks to fellow intern Will Ryan for help editing). I tried for a while to see if the letters spelled anything, but apparently they're random. And what the whole thing symbolizes, said Arcand, is the cozy relationship of Vermont and Quebec, except he didn't use the word cozy. The title of the sculpture, I think, might reveal the teensiest translation problem: "Unchanging Dialogue." Isn't "unchanging" a bad thing? Like rigid, or stale, or stuck? Perhaps just "Dialogue" would have done the trick.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter what it's called; it's a gift of friendship from our northern neighbors, and that's a good thing. Plus, it was a gorgeous, sunny day and we all got snacks and wine afterward. Burlington City Arts even put out a red carpet leading into the reception tent. Very classy.

So, here's the funny thing: A week or so ago, there was another sculpture dedication at Champlain College--of Sammy D himself--and somehow we got it in our heads that the same sculpture had been moved to the Waterfront for permanent installation. We'd heard that this version of Champlain was shirtless, leading to some speculation in our office about whether he was ripped or flabby. I thought he'd be emaciated, having just crossed an ocean and all. Of course we quickly realized our error about the artworks. You can see here what Champlain College reported about its new sculpture, which was created by Vermont artist James ("Whale Tails") Sardonis. As for the explorer's physique, judge for yourself.

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