The design 'Woven Together' was created by Vancouver-based First Nations artists Susan Point and Thomas Cannell. The artwork has been selected to decorate the exterior of the Johnson Street parkade.

Artists work to keep Coast Salish art prominent

Susan Point remembers a time when Coast Salish art was almost non-existent.

Susan Point remembers a time when Coast Salish art was almost non-existent and now the west coast artist is striving to make sure that never happens again.

The Vancouver-based Musqueam First Nation artist has been working with her four children, creating various pieces of art for years. It has even become a family affair.

“We all kind of feed off each other,” said Point, who describes her own work as contemporary. “I think my goal initially was to educate the public on our Coast Salish art style, which was an almost lost art form when I started. But with my children being with me, I’m teaching them, hoping they’ll carry it on.”

Point’s two daughters started creating art at a young age, while her sons started later in life. Since then, they have all adapted their own unique Coast Salish art styles.

Her son Thomas Cannell has collaborated with her on several large scale public artworks in different mediums. On his own, he has created Coast Salish art pieces at Terra Nova Park in Richmond and Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, among others.

Point also has some 13 grandchildren, many of whom have shown a flair for the arts as well.

“I’m hoping they’ll carry it on and my grandchildren will carry it on and our art style will always be very prominent,” she said.

In a rare mother-son collaboration, Point and Cannell will have the opportunity to share their art style with Victoria after they were chosen to create artwork for the exterior of the Johnson Street parkade.

The duo was chosen out of 110 other proposals that were submitted.

“It was really important for us to reflect the first people of this region and the Coast Salish,” said Jon Tupper, chair of the art in public places committee. “Susan Point is one of the most important Coast Salish artists in this region . . . That part of Johnson Street needs something interesting there. This is a significant piece for the city and the parkade.”

“Woven Together” will consist of colourful, power-coated aluminum circular forms that are often used in Coast Salish art to represent the cycle of life, but also the traditional weaving spindle whorl and transportation. The centre will be made up of four eye motifs that create four butterfly images symbolizing the ability to accept change, metamorphosis and the beauty of nature.

“It was inspired by our traditional iconic imagery based on old pieces of the Coast Salish peoples and then trying to incorporate that into our contemporary art style,” said Point, who will work from her studio in Vancouver. “It’s very graphic. We’re trying to incorporate subtle imagery that would represent all of the peoples.”

The $250,000 project will begin in the next few weeks and is expected to be installed in the parkade in April.

 

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