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Oscar Peterson statue to grace Ottawa


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A fundraising campaign has been launched to erect a life-size bronze sculpture of Oscar Peterson outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

The statue of the Canadian jazz virtuoso will be unveiled on June 30 as part of Canada Day celebrations.

Created by Canadian sculptor Ruth Abernethy, it will depict Peterson seated on a bench beside a grand piano.

The goal of the fundraising campaign launched Wednesday is $210,000.

It has the support of individuals including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, who were among the first to donate.

"Oscar Peterson is a quintessential Canadian success story," the prime minister said in a press release. "He came from humble roots to become a legendary performer who inspired countess artists all over the world."

Peterson, who grew up in Montreal, died in December 2007 at age 82 after a 65-year career as a piano virtuoso, recording artist and composer. He had more than 200 recordings to his name.

For the last half of his life, Peterson lived in Mississauga, Ont.

The fundraising project is being orchestrated by Peter Herrndorf, CEO of the arts centre, and Brian Robertson, the veteran producer who collaborated with Herrndorf and others on organizing the tribute to Peterson at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto shortly after his death.

Other supporters include Liberal MP Bob Rae, former Ontario premier Bill Davis and Senator Tommy Banks, another Canadian musician.

Rae said in the release that he hoped the fundraising campaign would persuade "jazz lovers and Canadians everywhere to contribute to this wonderful tribute to one of our country's national treasures."

Abernethy, who began her career in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's props department, has also created bronze sculptures of other Canadian arts giants, including:

Pianist Glenn Gould outside the CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto.

Toronto actor Al Waxman in Toronto's Kensington Market.

Manitoba Theatre Centre co-founders John Hirsch and Tom Hendry in Winnipeg.

She said the idea behind putting the Peterson statue outside the National Arts Centre is to encourage passersby to sit beside it and "play a duet."

With files from The Canadian Press

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2010/03/19/peterson-statue-ottawa.html#ixzz0idSnqtxc

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