The audible delight of seeing Carrielynn Victor’s vibrant mural could be heard from across the parking lot at Strathcona elementary on Saturday.
“Wow,” said the two cyclists who broke out in smiles and stopped to chat with Victor. “That’s incredible!”
The Coast Salish artist’s latest piece of public art was completed on the weekend.
Purples, blues, oranges and yellows swirl together in the sky as dark green cedar trees stand tall behind seven black-and-white animals. The moon and the stars glow bright white above the raven, wolf, eagle, salmon, orca, black bear and beaver. (See more photos below.)
“This is my vision of what their concepts were,” Victor said of the Strathcona mural. “They wanted stars and trees and animals and so we gave it a real West Coast feel.”
This is the third mural she’s painted on the exterior walls of Chilliwack schools.
The first one she did was at Sardis elementary which features her typical style of artwork – Coast Salish design elements using 3D geometric patterns. That mural, which was inspired by woven blankets, was painted last year.
Her second school mural was completed at the beginning of July at Cheam elementary. There, a large blue thunderbird is seen soaring above bright green planters. The curve of its wingspan appears to be moving in synch with the curved roof above the school’s main entrance (see photo below).
“Colour is key. I find colour creates the vibe, the mood.”
Victor draws from the environment surrounding the wall. She snaps photos of the building, sometimes at different times of the year, and builds her palette around the colours she sees.
“It helps the mural settle into the space,” she said.
Although the schools have “full reign” over the theme of their mural, Victor works closely with each committee to come up with a design.
At Strathcona, the mural is based on The Six Cedar Trees book which the school is using in its curriculum. The book explores the characteristics and strengths of the six animals and how they can contribute them to one’s own growth, Victor said.
She’s included all six animals, plus an eagle and cedar trees into the mural. She also added some of her signature geometric designs along the left side of the piece.
Many of her pieces, including the recently finished Strathcona mural, have been done with the help of her partner Deb Silver and brother Rodney Victor.
People can also see Victor’s work across the Lower Mainland.
In April, Victor painted a mural in downtown Vancouver as part of Make Art While Apart, a project associated with the Vancouver Mural Festival which brought dozens of murals to boarded-up businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She’ll be doing something exactly like that here in Chilliwack, too.
Her next project will be a mural near Five Corners. It will be painted on plywood in the windows of a closed Wellington Avenue storefront.
Arrangements will be made to save the artwork when the boards eventually come down.
She spoke with her grandmother recently about the importance of public art and what she hopes people who see her murals will take away from them.
“In a good way, in a healthy way our people are still here,” she recalls her grandmother saying. “We still remember who we are. We’re still thriving and we’re finding new ways [to remember] the stories that have always been here.”
People instantly feel something good when they see her art which ignites a positive discussion together, she added.
“We’ll start these conversations about what they see and what they experience and we share those experiences and those values together. It helps build community,” Victor said. “That’s the best I can hope for is that we build community together.”