I’ve been fortunate enough to know people who have had nine lives – that is, they’ve packed so much living into the time they have on Earth, they can say that they’ve experienced far more than most of us, even if we were given centuries to catch up.
Roy Leadbeater was one of those people. The Edmonton-based artist’s work can be found across Canada. But, as I discovered in 2014, he’s done so much more.
His neighbour, Nemer Fayad, pitched me on the idea of doing a story on Roy; after all, this was a man who was still sculpting and painting well into his late 80s. But Nemer told me that there was a lot more to Roy than the artist. And he told me to book a good chunk of time to talk to Roy, because his life story was about as compelling as any.
To say Roy lived a wide and varied life would be an understatement. He and his brother were abandoned by their parents when he was just eight years old. He served in the Merchant Marine. He got caught in the crossfire as a British policeman working in the powderkeg that was the rebirth of Israel. He came to Canada and began to sculpt.
I was totally engaged by this man. I can only hope that my story, which we ran in September 2014, did him justice.
Last weekend, Roy passed away at the age of 89.
After I wrote the profile on Roy, I worked with some of his supporters to forward his nomination for a Lifetime Achievement Award, given out at the mayor’s Celebration of the Arts. He wasn’t selected, and I urge our Mayor and the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton to fix this oversight in the future.
For those not familiar with Roy’s work, we also ran a primer on where you can find his art in the Edmonton area.
Roy’s work was very textural, with sculptures that reminded you of the surfaces of barren planets. He was fascinated by the idea of exploration; he could tell you what it was like to be rolled on the waves in a Merchant Marine vessel; he was fascinated by mankind’s push towards the stars. His art was an exploration.
All I can say is, Roy, it was a pleasure to meet you.