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Studio West sculptor Don Begg leaves monuments behind — literally

Don Begg and his wife's art studio has been a part of Cochrane since 1970. Since then Studio West has received numerous awards for their bronze sculptures and created scores of public monuments across Canada and the U.S.

More than 40 years of creating art, and still going strong

Don Begg is an award-winning sculptor from Cochrane, Alta. He has been creating bronze art for more than four decades 2:47

For sculptor Don Begg, creating art is about preserving memories — like his monuments that can last for generations.

"They don't rust, they may corrode a little bit, but we saw bronzes that were 4,500 years old, and they looked like they were brand new," he said.

Begg was born and raised in Cochrane and it's where he and his wife, Shirley Begg, still operate their workshop and foundry

Don Begg working in his studio. After doing this for more than four decades, he is still personally involved in every aspect of creating the statues. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The couple founded Studio West in 1970 and has been working side by side to create more than 85 public monuments across North America. Their works have also been accepted in collections and museums across the world, including the Queen's.

Don first studied bronze casting and sculpture in Alberta and California. He also studied the craft of monumental sculpture in New Jersey and New York. 

After more than four decades of sculpting, Don still insists on being personally involved in every stage of casting and finishing of his statues. 

Bronze artist Don Begg set up shop in Cochrane in 1970. (Monty Kruger/CBC)
The "lost wax" casting method has been used for centuries to cast bronze statues. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

He uses the "lost wax" casting method that has been around for centuries, and it's thirsty work.

"Our bronze, it starts to melt at 1,800 degrees and we will pour at about 2,100 degrees," Don explains. 

The Beggs love creating art that is accessible to anyone that wants to enjoy it. Many of their works can be seen around Calgary.

Here are a few:

Fishing at YYC. Visitors to the Calgary airport will recognize this trout fisherman from the departure level. (Monty Kruger/CBC)
Col. James Macleod was the commissioner of the North West Mounted Police from 1876-1880. This statue is outside Fort Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)
Sitting Eagle, or John Hunter, was a noted patriarch of the Chiniki Band of the Stoney tribe in Morley, Alta. This statue can be found on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street S.W. (Monty Kruger/CBC)
This bull rider can be seen outside Studio West in Cochrane. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Visitors can schedule a free tour to see the gallery and learn more about the lost wax bronze casting method.