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Insight: REIBC blog > Exploring Community Identity with Public Art in Chilliwack

Exploring Community Identity with Public Art in Chilliwack

posted on 11:05 AM, August 13, 2021
Vedder Bridge gateway, Ey kwesé é mi. Credit: City of Chilliwack

The City of Chilliwack’s foray into public art began, formally, in 2014 with the establishment of a Public Art Advisory Committee. Since then, the community has made great strides.

“A lot has happened since our initial art installation,” recounts Councillor Sue Knott. “We started with a very modest budget, but we’ve grown it every year as more people started to see the value art brings to the community.”

Knott sees public art as helping to define community identity, enhancing quality of life, and contributing to more eyes on the street, which makes communities safer.

A particular focus of public art in Chilliwack is its use to demarcate gateways. Large installations in roundabouts, for example, not only contribute aesthetics but prevent drivers from driving through them, particularly at night.

“We placed Giant Flowers by sculptor Ronald Simmer in our Evans Road roundabout in March 2018,” says Knott. “The reaction was swift and intense. People either hated them or loved them; there did not appear to be any middle ground. (I was delighted! I have never heard so much talk about public art in our city and it continued for months. That is a win in my opinion.)”

More recently, the City worked with local First Nation communities for a roundabout that approaches its new Vedder Bridge. Knott notes that “. . . it is important that we use opportunities, like this artwork, to support truth and reconciliation.”

The installation was designed by Squiala Chief David Jimmie and artist Bonny Graham in consultation with the Stó:lō Nation Chiefs Council and Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe.

“The canoe is a Stó:lō traditional canoe that was fabricated of metal but looks like wood. The upper ring of stainless steel is embossed with a salmon and wave design, as well as text in Halq'eméylem (from the Salishan family of languages of the Coast Salish peoples)— ‘Ey kwesé é mi,’ translated in English as ‘Welcome—it is good that you are here.’”

Input Spring 2021
Download Spring 2021

Read more about public art in the City of Chilliwack in Knott’s “Chilliwack Embraces the Arts” in the Spring 2021 edition of Input. Download Spring 2021

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