There won’t be a public opening scheduled for the new artwork at the Vedder Bridge roundabout in Chilliwack.
Instead a distanced group photo was taken at the site Monday to recognize final project completion with city councillors Harv Westeringh, Bud Mercer and Sue Knott, along with Skwah elder Eddie Gardner, Siyamiyateliyot Elizabeth Phillips, and artist Bonny Graham.
The piece was designed by Squiala Chief David Jimmie and artist Bonny Graham (b.wyse), in consultation with the Stó:lō Nation Chiefs Council and Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe.
There’s a strong emphasis on sacred salmon and local waters in the artwork installed in the centre button of the roundabout near the Vedder River.
“With this particular art piece I was really hoping to demonstrate that strong connection to water,” Jimmie said, when the design was first unveiled in 2017.
The canoe on top of the ring is a replica of the pre-contact style dugout canoe that was essential to Coast Salish and Stó:lō communities for transportation and trade.
“Watching this piece come to life from the original vision and concept I drew on a piece of paper has been amazing,” said Chief Jimmie. “There are so many people that worked hard to make this happen and I would like to thank Bonny Graham for her beautiful art work, the City of Chilliwack’s Mayor and Council for their unwavering support and specifically Colette McDiarmid for overseeing the project.”
The piece will be “a beautiful addition” to the Chilliwack area, he said, with “deeper meaning as an art piece.”
The steel ring portion of the design was titled ‘United’ by Graham, with the embossed words Ey kwesé é mi in Halq’eméylem which can be translated as “It’s good that you are here – welcome.”
The artist chose “United” to underline the unifying effect of the project, and the steel ring, on the people and communities, celebrating the abundant waters of Stó:lō territory and the iconic salmon.
The words embossed on the ring are in a special font developed by Graham, inspired by Coast Salish design. The custom font is part of her language preservation project geared to the survival of Halq’eméylem, language of the Stólō people, after conferring with the Stólō Resource Centre language department and Siyamiyateliyot Elizabeth Phillips, who is the last fluent speaker of the upriver language.
The fish symbolize abundance, fertility, prosperity and renewal. The cross-hatched wave on the ring captures the continuity and flow of the nearby river.
The eight support posts of the piece were shaped into canoe paddles, with seven community emblems to represent the seven Ts’elxwéyeqw communities, and the City of Chilliwack crest.
“This piece is about more than art in a roundabout,” said Mayor Popove. “As we continue to build relationships with local First Nations, it is important that we use opportunities like this artwork to support truth and reconciliation.”
The $255,500 budget for the Vedder Road roundabout artwork was included in the larger Vedder Bridge Replacement Project budget several years ago. The completion of this aspect of the project marks the official completion of the Vedder Bridge Replacement Project.
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