Bastion Square art installation to be replaced by Welcome Pole
The Commerce Canoe art installation was removed by city staff on Oct. 17, 2019. (City of Victoria)
The Commerce Canoe that has towered over Bastion Square for more than a decade towers no more.
The City of Victoria removed the art installation designed by lllarion Gallant last week on Thursday, Oct. 17. Victoria city council voted in June to move the canoe to the triangle traffic island near the Johnson Street Bridge, which is bordered by Johnson, Pandora and Wharf Streets.
"It's going to work really well, it's a really transitory area in terms of people moving through the site," said City of Victoria Senior Cultural Planner, Nichola Reddington.
"In terms of its height and positioning in the triangle its going to work really well."
Due to the sculpture's scale, the material used and the theme of the Commerce Canoe, it was determined that the artwork would integrate well into the triangle island adjacent to the harbour. The installment was originally supposed to be replaced by the Orca Project public art project, but was cancelled after the animal-inspired installation was deemed unfeasible.
Placed in Bastion Square in 2008, The Commerce Canoe symbolized the canoe as an indigenous vessel of commerce, when local first peoples traveled coastal waters prior to European contact. The red seed pods that surrounded the canoe represented the indigenous tradition of harvesting rice as a commodity. Coastal peoples would harvest rice in waterways by tapping ripened kernels into the canoes.
The canoe is now waiting at the City of Victoria Public Works yard for inspection and refurbishment in preparation for its installation at the triangle traffic island in 2020.
"You'll be able to see it from a distance but you will also be able to [enter] that triangle space and enjoy it from close up," said Reddington. "There will also be new plantings and a new environment that will all be integrated with the sculpture."
A new Welcome Pole is set to replace the Commerce Canoe near the entrance of Bastion Square at Wharf Street. The idea originally came from local community members.
"The Bastion Square Revitalization Association came forward with a proposal to celebrate the Lekwungen culture and traditions," said Reddigton.
"They proposed a Welcome Pole so this was a good opportunity to make that happen in the square."
The Welcome Pole will provide an opportunity for visitors and residents to learn more about the Lekwungen People and their local traditions and customs. Tom LaFortune, a member of the Tsawout First Nation, will carve the Welcome Pole next summer.
The 30-foot pole will feature several figures including an elder who will welcome visitors to the city. Songhees elders approved the installation of the pole with the understanding that it be near water.