A dugout canoe powered by paddles will be the central image of the artwork going in at the new roundabout at the Vedder Bridge next year.
A partnership between City of Chilliwack and Sto:lo Nation has led to the Vedder Road Roundabout Art Project, being realized after many months of collaborative planning.
The design was unveiled publicly on Tuesday by Squiala Chief David Jimmie and Coast Salish artist Bonny Graham, with Mayor Sharon Gaetz, at the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre.
Mayor Gaetz called the public art “spectacular” and a “vibrant addition” to the newly built roundabout. It will include a water feature element, as well as night lighting.
The eight paddles under the canoe will display logos of the member communities of the Ts’elxwéyeqw , along with that of the City of Chilliwack, and the final design was in consultation with Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council and Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe.
“We believe this artwork will be an important symbol of the growing relationship between the City of Chilliwack, Sto:lo Nation, and the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe,” said Mayor Gaetz.
Chief Jimmie, who is also president of the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe, and president of Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council, said it was “in the spirit of reconciliation and remembrance,” that they agreed to get involved. City officials contacted the Sto:lo leader last year to see if they could work together on this, with common goals.
“All of our people have had a strong connection to the water, to the land and to the air. With this particular art piece I was really hoping to demonstrate that strong connection to water,” said Jimmie.
Pre-contact it was the rivers and waterways that functioned as highways or trade routes, according to the elders, so the dugout canoe was essential to both trade and transport, Jimmie said.
The Sto:lo/Coast Salish style canoe will be perched atop a large steel ring, on which the Halq’emeylem words “Ey kwesé é mi” will be embossed in an original typographical font designed by artist Bonnie Graham, along with the English version, “It’s good that you are here…welcome.”
It was an “absolute honour” to be part of what turned out to be a totally collaborative process, said Graham.
For this project, she employed the specialized font that she invented, inspired and guided by Sto:lo elders, to help preserve the language of Halkomelem. The words circling the upper ring of the new artwork will be in that special font.
“I’ve seen this with the water running, and it just takes my breath away,” the artist said.
“I can’t wait to see it become a part of our community, and to have the language represented in our city with wonderful project. I’m just really happy to be a part of it,” Graham added.
The city budget for the $180,000 project was covered by the Vedder Road roundabout project cost. There are plans to use the abutment of the old Vedder Bridge on the north side for a “view point” that will be ideal to gaze at the new public art coming soon.
Construction completion of the public art project is expected by Spring 2018.