Memorable Manitobans: Josef Randa (1933-2005)
Born at Prague, Czech Republic on 10 January 1933 to Joseph and Bozena Randa, he studied at the Ceramic School of Prague beginning in 1952 and apprenticed thereafter. He worked for the National Artist Group, where he was a sculptor and a restorer. Also in 1952, he married Drahomira “Dada” Mareska (1934-2015). While vacationing in Split, Croatia, he and his wife made the sudden decision not to return to Prague, which was in a state of political upheaval and under a threat of war. With only their suitcases full of beach clothes, they immediately began their emigration journey, arriving in Canada, via Vienna, Austria, in the fall of 1968 with their two young children, and settled at Winnipeg.
After a difficult start in a new country, he was eventually able to work full time as a sculptor in the mid-1970s. His artistic talent and his experience and knowledge of various mediums allowed him to create works in bronze, plaster, glass, and fibreglass. Besides creating highly acclaimed pieces of art, he also did his own formwork, casting, and reproductions. His many works are scattered around the world. In Winnipeg he was well known for being an integral part of Winnipeg’s Citizens Hall of Fame program, which started with his first commissioned sculpture of 1989 inductee George Campbell MacLean. He went on to do six more sculptures for the program, including his last, 2004 inductee John Carl Ridd. Other Citizens Hall of Fame inductees who had their busts sculpted by Randa are Arnold Theodore Spohr, Ben Hatskin, George Johnson, Vince Leah, and William Gomez Fonseca. His expertise also came into use when the Citizens Hall of Fame was moved from the Riverwalk at the Forks to the Assiniboine Park, where he did the refinishing touch-ups and helped with the welding to secure the pieces into place. Over and above these commissioned works, he assisted local artist Eva Stubbs with the casting of her Hall of Fame sculptures. He was also instrumental in reclaiming damaged sculptures through his strong technical knowledge of working with bronze and the different foundry processes involved; he had a keen awareness of the different patinas that result from a sculpture’s exposure to the elements over time.
In Winnipeg, his most prominent sculptures are located at the Aquatic Hall of Fame in the Pan-Am Pool, Royal Winnipeg Ballet Building, and numerous Winnipeg churches. His other works are kept in numerous private collections.
He remained proud of his heritage, loved his birth city of Prague, and participated within the local Czech and Slovak community.
He died at Winnipeg on 6 July 2005. In the winter of 2006, a retrospective of his art was held at the Pavilion Gallery Museum at Assiniboine Park, accompanied by a commemorative catalogue of his work.
Some of his works in Manitoba included:
“Randa was a talented, inspired artist,” Winnipeg Regional Real Estate News, 22 July 2005.
“Josef Randa Retrospective,” Canadian Czech-Slovak Benevolent Association.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 3 September 2022