Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 02, 2007

'Cultural Magnet' Tuning Up for U of G Visit

It’s a “cultural magnet” that has already strung together many Canadians, in more ways than one. Now the iconic Six String Nation Guitar will help christen a new gathering place on campus: the newly built atrium at the heart of the University of Guelph’s science complex.

On April 5, a guitar made of pieces and symbols of Canadiana will arrive at Guelph for a daylong series of activities, beginning with the first-ever public event in the new atrium. The instrument will also appear at a campus lecture and will be played by about 25 Guelph-area musicians at an evening concert.

All of the events are free and open to the University community and general public.

The atrium presentation begins at noon and features a talk by CBC Radio broadcaster Jowi Taylor. He came up with the idea for the guitar in 1995 and spent more than a decade chasing down parts to build it along with Nova Scotia luthier George Rizsanyi.

The guitar contains parts from more than 60 Canadian artifacts, including Pierre Trudeau’s canoe paddle; Paul Henderson’s Summit Series hockey stick; Louis Riel’s schoolhouse; Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home; and the Golden Spruce, a 300-year-old tree prized by the Haida-Gwaii of British Columbia.

Since its Parliament Hill debut by Guelph musician Stephen Fearing during last year’s Canada Day celebrations, Taylor has taken the guitar to events across Canada as a privately supported project.

“It’s a cultural magnet,” said Prof. Doug Larson, Integrative Biology, organizer of the day’s events. “It’s going to bring everything and everybody together.”

He says that’s also the purpose of the atrium in the nearly 400,000-square-foot science complex, whose final phase will be officially opened later this year. Up to 500 people can be accommodated inside the triangular gathering space formed by the three wings of the complex.
The four-storey interior courtyard is 12,000 square feet in area. Its multi-purpose space will include food and beverage services.

“I hope the atrium will become a focal point not just for the sciences but indeed for many activities on campus, including the humanities and the performing arts,” said Prof. Michael Emes, dean of the College of Biological Science. “What better beginning than a guitar that combines life, chemistry, physics, the cultural values of our shared heritage and the beauty of music?”

During the event, Prof. Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research), will perform a short personal composition on the Six String Nation Guitar.

The instrument will also be featured in a public lecture at 2:30 p.m. in Room 103 of Rozanski Hall. Larson will discuss “The Botany of the Guitar” along with Folkway Music owner Mark Stutman and musician Lewis Melville, a technician in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB). The lecture is part of the undergraduate course “Plants and Human Use” taught by Prof. Usher Posluszny, MCB.

Beginning at 7 p.m., the guitar will share the stage with about 25 area musicians at Manhattan’s Music Club, 951 Gordon St. The musicians include Jeff Bird, who performs with the Cowboy Junkies; session musician Kevin Breit; and singer/songwriters Andrew McPherson, James Gordon and Tannis Slimmon, a research technician in the Department of Plant Agriculture. Melville and Larson, who builds guitars and plays in a local band in his spare time, will also perform on the guitar.

“We’re using the instrument to talk about history, art, culture, science, communication and research,” said Larson. “Just like building the University, this project involves recruiting what appear to be disparate interests that are all part of one puzzle — how to make our lives richer.”

Prof. Doug Larson
Department of Integrative Biology
519 824-4120, Ext. 56008

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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