The Begging Bear, which is formally known as the Canadiana Bear, was created in the summer of 1997 by Carl Skelton. The 7 1/2 foot tall bronze sculpture was in fact temporarily displayed at an exhibition in Toronto, but was purchased with the funds donated by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, along with the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Program in 1999. The sculpture is now located in the Donald Forster Sculpture Park, beside a bus stop near the Art Gallery. The Arts Acquisition Program as of now owns the sculpture and continuously takes care of it. There are actually three bears, them being the princess bear, begging bear, and the suet bear, located within the city of Guelph. The most popular and interactive bear sculptures consists of the begging bear and princess bear.
A natural tradition created by the community of Guelph revolves around dressing the bear to take on different persona’s in order to relate to special events, as well as interact with everyone. The bear is not just a sculpture, as it symbolizes everyone and everything. The sculpture portrays a good example of how we have stripped away the animal’s fearsome or objectionable qualities and replaced them with warm and fuzzy human traits, enabling the community of Guelph to become more involved and attached with it. In its strange and somewhat awkward pose, with its arm outstretched and palm turned upward, the bear always seemed to be reaching out to the people of Guelph, showing acceptance and hospitality.
Carl specifically created the statue to stress the importance of disappearing wilderness and encroachment of animal habitat. It’s important to not only get involved with the tradition of dressing and interacting with the bear, but to also take into consideration how this sculpture represents the destruction human impact has caused on the environment. In that sense, the bear demands some change (literally)!