Celebrations at Chilliwack General Hospital on Friday included the unveiling of new artwork by local Sto:lo artists in the emergency department.
The wellness-themed art generated a storm of controversy last week at The Progress (www.theprogress.com), attracting a record number of 52 online comments and several empassioned letters to the editor.
It all started when a Chilliwack Progress reader wrote to ask why local aboriginal artists were commissioned to create the art in the first place.
“What makes aboriginal spiritual art, no matter how beautiful or original, more acceptable?” asked letter-writer Sandy Van Eysinga, in her Feb. 15. letter in the Progress which was headlined: ‘Some may find art offensive.’
But Fraser Health rep Diane Miller, executive director of Primary Health Care and Aboriginal Health, explained the reasoning for the art choices in her speech during the celebration on Friday.
“To recognize the traditional territory on which this hospital occupies and to celebrate the relationship with have with Sto:lo Nation, we commissioned some very special health and wellness themed artwork for our new emergency department,” Miller said.
In fact the art in question was selected by a community panel, comprising community leaders, employees, Sto:lo elders and youth.
“The artwork was chosen based on a number of factors including concept, appropriateness for a hospital setting, and how it represents the Sto:lo people,” Miller said, later thanking the participating artists.
Artists from various Sto:lo communities who were commissioned to produce art for the hospital included: Stan Greene, Francis Horne, George Pennier, Bonny Krulicki, and Carrie Lynn Victor.
The pieces range from a kneeling medicine man carved from red cedar, to a spindle whorl measuring almost three metres, to large banners emblazoned with words of healing in Halkomelem and more.