The garden at Assiniboine Park was commemorated in 1992 as the first outdoor one-man gallery in North America, displaying Mol’s priceless bronze sculptures, porcelains, paintings, ceramics and sketches.
The garden’s quarter-century landmark coincides with Canada’s 150th anniversary and 125 years of substantial Ukrainian immigration to Canada, two events particularly relevant to Mol, who was a Ukrainian and a humanist who significantly advanced multicultural concept by acknowledging the mosaic of our Canadian culture and history.
Leo Mol (Leonid Molodozhanyn) was born in western Ukraine on Jaunuary 15, 1915, to parents who were potters. After living in Austria and Germany for a number of years, he came to Canada in 1948 and lived near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, but eventually settled in Winnipeg.
He started his career as a painter decorating the interior of churches in Brandon and Winnipeg, dedicating his talent and skill to the tapestry of Canadian Ukrainian culture and history. His work includes stained glass windows of St. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Cathedral in Winnipeg. As time progressed, Mol became internationally renowned for his flawless work and he executed magnificent sculptures including human figures. His art is housed in permanent collections in North America, in galleries and international museums.
Leo Mol’s art can be found in Washington, D.C., at the monument of Ukrainian poet/bard Taras Shevchenko, in the Vatican Museum in Rome, and a monument to former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. His portrait busts of world figures include Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth, popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.
In Winnipeg, Mol donated his personal collection of more than 300 pieces of art to the City of Winnipeg on the condition that a Leo Mol Sculpture Garden be built. This project became a reality on June 18, 1992, with the combined co-operation of the provincial government, and the City of Winnipeg under the guidance of the late Mayor Bill Norrie. Mol died on July 4, 2009, at the age of 94.
Fittingly, his garden has a visible Ukrainian character. As visitors enter, they are welcomed by a statue of a trumpeter, Ukrainian Hutsal, a pastoral highlander and artisan who inhabited western Ukraine. Throughout the garden, monuments of cultural icon Taras Shevchenko are scattered, depicting Ukraine’s champion of freedom and love for mankind.
As we commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, let us respect the significance of Mol’s contribution to Canada’s culture and history. His legacy of art can inspire us to focus on achievements and contributions that we too, can make our great country.
Article appeared in the editorial section of the Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, June 16, 2017