Original Published 09:48 May 04, 2022
By Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
BOISSEVAIN — Imbuing each crease of metal with significant meaning, Don Engbrecht of Anchorage Fabrication transforms fragments of scrap metal into one-of-a-kind works of art.
His latest project, a massive multi-part piece, titled “Life’s Journey,” is set to be installed at Cherry Creek Place, an assisted living facility in Boissevain, this summer.
“I’m always open for challenges,” he said. “You always want to do something a bit bigger, something more challenging. That’s a normal thing for artists.” Engbrecht searched across the Prairies looking for pieces of scrap metal to make his vision of “Life’s Journey” a reality. It took him about a year and a half to source materials and weld pieces in place. The finished sculpture will consist of seven massive segments carefully placed together.
“Life’s Journey” will be installed in two stages about a week apart. Some of the pieces weigh more than 1,300 pounds. The foundation will be cemented underground first for security, safety and stability and then the pieces will be bolted together on-site.
He christened the sculpture “Life’s Journey” since each piece is layered with meanings that speak to the lessons learned over one’s life. Engbrecht carefully researched the shapes used in the piece to understand what they mean in different cultures and share it with the Boissevain community. The sculpture includes a giant archway that represents people’s entrance into the world. It is complemented by an arc that symbolizes the start and end of one’s life journey.
The sculpture consists of three shapes — a pyramid, cube and sphere, which represent the different stages of growth and maturity in life.
Engbrecht included the pyramid to symbolize sense of harmony and unity within oneself and the environment people aspire to. The cube stands for patience, consistency and allowing things to develop in their own perfect time. The sphere represents completeness, fulfilment, wholeness, infinite eternity and timelessness.
Dragonflies have been added to each of the centrepieces to relfect change. Engbrecht is no stranger to symbolism in his art; every piece he crafts is meticulously researched and thought out so he can incorporate different meanings for themed works.
“I try and give a meaning to it. A story.”
He will sketch out some of his plans to get a basic idea of how to bring a piece to life, but working with scrap metal requires the ability to adapt as the design changes.
“You can think it through. You design it and then actually, practically, it doesn’t work, so then you have to make adjustments.” Engbrecht’s foray into metal art started after he and his wife Betty began developing Anchorage Gardens at their tiny homestead near Boissevain around 2000. They were intentional in their work and carefully developed different flower beds with symbolic names like “Habitation,” “Affirmation,” “Relaxation” and “Imagination,” to create 27 unique sites in the garden for people to visit.
The garden installation was created using only recycled materials and each site includes an agricultural accent. The flower beds grew each year, incorporating new additions every season until Anchorage Gardens was officially retired in 2016.
He hosted his first art gallery in the yard in 2012 and eventually had four on display. Engbrecht said each of them had between eight and 15 pieces.
“The artwork, the sculpting, just really complemented Betty’s work in the garden, the flowers and so on.” The Anchorage Gardens galleries led to different commissioned pieces and his creations are on display throughout Westman, including 27 in Killarney, 12 at the International Peace Gardens and three in Boissevain.
Engbrecht, who started getting serious about creating metal sculptures around 2010, described his artwork as “rustic and subtle.”
Pieces are carefully welded together after countless hours of designing, scavenging for parts, and measuring and cutting pieces.
The most challenging aspect of this type of art is the collecting of material, Engbrecht said. He considers himself fortunate because people know what he does and he is often invited to come and see pieces for potential art projects people have at their homes. Engbrecht and his wife have always been artistic. Most of the décor in their home was handcrafted by them, and the metal sculptures felt like a natural expansion of the knowledge he had gained.
“That translated into the canvas being our yard,” Engbrecht said. “The sculpting just complemented the flowers and the flowers just complemented the sculpting. It all works together.”
The project has been ongoing for two years ago. What inspired Engbrecht to attempt the piece was the promise of a challenge. “Life’s Journey” is one of the most complicated projects he has undertaken, he said.
Engbrecht sits on the board of Cherry Creek Place and this connection inspired him to donate the sculpture to the facility. He joined the board of Cherry Creek Place after his wife went into care.
Engbrecht has been passionate about the Cherry Creek Place facility since day one, “from the first tree being removed from the property to when the building was finished.”
Cherry Creek will be hosting an open house on Friday, which will be followed by the unveiling of “Life’s Journey” most likely in June.
The open house takes place at 2 p.m. and will offer tours of the building followed by an official ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m.
“We’re just glad to come together and hang out,” Engbrecht said. “It’s very exciting for us as a community.”
This item reprinted with permission from Brandon Sun, Brandon, Manitoba