Story of Chilliwack mural goes ahead after council debate

Depictions of illegal bridge-jumping was controversial during discussion at city hall

A young artist’s vision of historic Chilliwack will soon adorn the blank wall at Five Corners.

The Public Art Advisory Committee recommended that artist Davis Graham be awarded the temporary mural project for his panorama, “The Story of Chilliwack” and council approved it.

The artist who grew up in Chilliwack, and earned the nickname Pencil Fingerz for his hip-hop portraiture, will have two weeks to complete it.

Council voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to approve the design. But the approval came only after a bit of a debate about altering the design – to possibly remove the depiction of two people leaping off the bridge, technically an illegal activity, frowned upon by rail bridge owners Southern Rail.

Coun. Chuck Stam offered up an amendment to the proposed artwork.

“It’s a nice collage,” he said in praise of the various Chilliwack activities depicted in the artwork. There’s kayaking, fishing, paragliding and bridge-jumping on the Chilliwack-Vedder River.

“One of the them shows a couple of people jumping off the train bridge, and I don’t want, as a city, to be seen to be condoning an illegal act,” Stam said.

The amendment to alter the artwork failed in a vote of 4-3, supported by Coun. Stam, Coun. Chris Kloot, and Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

Mayor Gaetz called the artwork by Graham “amazing” but was uncomfortable with the bridge jumping.

Coun. Sue Attrill, chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee, said they had the whole discussion about the bridge-jumpers as it came up at the committee level.

They decided it was acceptable, Attrill said, given that’s it is clearly a part of local history, and it’s a fact that people used to jump off the bridge into the Vedder River, near Yarrow.

“It’s not something we could condone currently, of course,” Attrill said.

Coun. Lum tried to suggest it looked to him like the jumpers in the mural design could have been jumping off the rock embankment below rather than the bridge itself.

“It all just speaks to the subjectivity of art,” Lum said.

Council members also talked about whether the artwork could be affixed in a way that it could later be removed, and re-used, if the building gets demolished for development. But it could not.

But the use of the word “temporary” in the official project name, is acknowledgment that the site could be redeveloped.

A call for proposals went out this summer to all artists, especially those with experience producing high-quality, two-dimensional pieces on a large scale.

“The city believes that public art helps increase the vibrancy and livability of the community, thereby fostering a sense of pride in public places,” according to the call for proposals by City of Chilliwack in August.

By the closing date of Sept. 6, nine submissions had been received. At the Sept. 21 committee meeting, mural design submissions were scored using pre-agreed criteria.

Council approved a budget of $5,000 on July 18, for the artist who would be selected to draw the mural on the exterior wall at 46120 Yale Road.

READ MORE: Call for artists went out

Based on the scoring process the top three submissions were:

• Davis Graham, The Story of Chilliwack 114

• James Mackay, Historic Train 93

• Esther Hoogendoorn, Geometric Shapes with Aboriginal Hummingbirds 84


 

@chwkjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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