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Sculpture: Adrienne Alison. Photo: Corporal Michael J. MacIsaac, Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) Imaging Services
Sculpture: Adrienne Alison. Photo by Corporal Michael J. MacIsaac, Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) Imaging Services

Forging a Nation

Adrienne Alison's sculpture on Parliament Hill shows how cooperation and diversity won the War of 1812

Triumph Through Diversity, commemorating the War of 1812, was unveiled on Parliament Hill last November. Ever since, sculptor Adrienne Alison is happy to report, visitors have been clambering up its central plinth and two adjacent granite boats to take a closer look. “I wanted viewers to interact with the sculpture,” says Alison, who earned a BSc in Art as Applied to Medicine from U of T in 1981.

Photo: Sean Marshall/Flickr
Photo: Sean Marshall/Flickr

Full of movement and slightly larger than life, her seven bronze figures form a circle illustrating the stages of battle – from first sighting the enemy through to victory. A self-described history buff, Alison consulted experts to ensure the accuracy of the clothing and sourced authentic weaponry, then enlisted live models to pose for about 40 hours each – including a Six Nations Mohawk man who travelled to Toronto several times from Brantford, Ontario.

Alison’s U of T studies, and years creating facial prosthetics at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, inform all of her work. But this piece of public art also required the organizational ability of a general. True to the spirit of the war it commemorates, Triumph Through Diversity “was a complex project that involved roughly 100 people,” she says. “Something this scale comes along once in a lifetime.”

Watch: Highlights from the unveiling of Triumph Through Diversity

Video: Canadian Heritage

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