Sprucing up Sapperton

New Westminster councillor Lorrie Williams takes a photo of the new tile mosaics to be installed in Sapperton’s sidewalks following an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday.  - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
New Westminster councillor Lorrie Williams takes a photo of the new tile mosaics to be installed in Sapperton’s sidewalks following an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday.

New Westminster unveiled four new historical mosaics in Sapperton on Tuesday that are scheduled to become the city’s newest artistic installations on East Columbia Street.

The mosaics, created by artists Bruce Walther and Ann Wilson, feature Sapperton in a vignette of landmarks depicting British Columbia’s oldest settlement.

One mosaic features the settlement of the British Sappers with Colonel Moody who mapped the region; another features the Art Deco facade of the old Sapperton movie theatre and bowling Alley; a third shows the Fraser River with the Pattullo Bridge in the background, a native canoeist in the middle ground and a sturgeon in the foreground.

“It’s the prehistoric, precolonial and modern phases of the river,” Walther explained.

The last mosaic was commissioned by Cap’s Bicycles, and features Cap Hobbis, a prominent member of the Sapperton community since the 40s. Nina Hobbis, a member of the mosaic steering committee, says towns are often remembered by their artwork and she wanted that for her father-in-law.

“He was very involved with parades here and he had a free museum,” Hobbis recalls. “The whole bowels of the building here were full of his collections of cars and bikes and steam engines and household items. And it was well-known as the free museum and people would come on field trips to visit it. When he passed away in 1995 we’ve been wanting to do something to commemorate him because Sapperton was his town and he did so much here.”

Hobbis says she and her husband were very impressed with the mosaic of Caps.

“It’s hard for an artist to draw something so personal,” she said. “He was actually drawing someone we knew very well. And when he put it in tile he even made it look more real and more beautiful and more like him.”

The installation of art in New Westminster began with the appointment of Greg Magirescu to city manager of arts and cultural development in April 2010. Since then, numerous artworks have appeared throughout the city,

including award-winning mosaics on 12th Street also crafted by Walther.

Hobbis said the new mosaics took a community effort. Magirescu contacted local curator Trudy Van Dop, who helped organize members for the mosaic steering committee. When the committee had a booth at the Sapperton Days Street Festival last year, New West resident Curt Higham, who ownes Ames Tile and Stone, donated specially-imported Portuguese tiles for the cause.

The four pieces will be installed in the sidewalk on either side of East Columbia Street between Sherbrooke and Braid later this month.

If you missed the unveiling of the mosaics, they can be seen again during Sapperton Days June 12.

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