Giant snowshoe creator says Fort Smith store will take his piece
Fort Smith artist Michel Labine says one of the town’s stores will become the new home of the world’s largest snowshoe after the municipality chose not to buy it.
Labine said the giant snowshoe he constructed last year is set to be purchased by PW Kaeser Stores and relocated to the company’s premises next month.
Guinness World Records formally certified his work, modelled on an Ojibwe snowshoe, as the planet’s largest in September last year.
He said the deal with Kaeser’s had been struck on Thursday, two days after councillors decided the snowshoe could not be bought with municipal cash. Attempts to confirm the arrangement with the store were not successful.
Last fall, Labine had asked the town if it would be interested in acquiring the snowshoe – more than 25 feet long, with 583 feet of bison rawhide lacing – for $5,000.
“I don’t think we should be purchasing this for $5,000. We’re in a tough time right now. We didn’t commission it,” said Councillor Kevin Campbell at a Tuesday meeting.
“If we start purchasing everybody’s art that comes through the door, we could get ourselves in big trouble. It’s lots of money and there are lots of good artists around here in Fort Smith. So I think we should stay away from this.”
Cynthia White, the town’s senior administrator, told councillors that while she thought the snowshoe was “an amazing thing,” she and municipal staff were unable to come up with a plan to fund the purchase.
“This is a thing we weren’t anticipating,” White said. “It doesn’t necessarily fit in well with any of the current work that we’re doing around downtown revitalization.
“Mr Labine is quite adamant that it must be displayed indoors. We don’t really have a space that we can designate to that. It’s hard to take a a piece of art that we didn’t commission, and didn’t have a plan for, and insert it into a plan that is already being done.”
Reached by phone on Thursday, Labine criticized the town for lacking a “vision of bringing tourists to the community,” but celebrated what he said would be the chance to install his work at a local store.
“It will be displayed indoors for all to enjoy. The world’s largest snowshoe is staying in Fort Smith,” he declared.
Earlier in the week, councillors had thanked Labine for his work and tried to find words of encouragement, even as they declined the offer to buy the snowshoe.
“I think it’s a really great piece. It’s such a draw for tourism. I think people travel to see something like this,” said Councillor Dana Fergusson.
“Keep at it. Sorry we couldn’t help you.”