Engines of Joy

As a member of the Conrad Grebel University College alumni committee, I get a chance at least twice a year to return to the place where I spent most of my undergraduate years — and where my spouse and I lived, as dons, during our first year of marriage.

Yesterday’s visit offered a first chance to see one of Grebel’s latest art installations in person. We Are All Engines of Joy is a moving-wire sculpture that beckons the passerby to grasp the handle on its bottommost wheel and take it for a spin.

We Are All Engines of Joy, James Paterson, 2022

The work’s creator, James Paterson, is a Grebel alumnus who graduated with his BFA at the University of Waterloo in 1981. The label adjacent to the sculpture says it “unifies the University of Waterloo’s six different faculties, with musical symbols, Grebel’s iconic peaked roof, ploughshares, and agrarian windmills. The artist’s goal is to show sheer revelry, joy, and celebration of who we are at our best and the good things in life we share together.”

Here is Paterson at the sculpture’s unveiling:

While a student in Waterloo’s fine arts program, Paterson studied with the late Nancy-Lou Patterson, who designed the stunning stained glass windows of the Grebel chapel, dedicated in 1964. Even though I sat in that chapel dozens of times as a student, I return to those windows nearly every time I visit the Grebel campus.

The windows on the north side of the Conrad Grebel University College chapel, designed by Nancy-Lou Patterson in the early 1960s

Author: Cornies

I'm a columnist and writer with continuing interests in arts journalism, Canadian politics and culture, and journalism ethics. I teach occasionally at Western University in London, Ontario. Past lives include coordinating the journalism program at Conestoga College, teaching at Ryerson University's School of Journalism, editing A-section news pages at The Globe and Mail, and various roles at The London Free Press, including arts and entertainment editor and editorial page editor.

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