BC Ferries unveils Coast Salish art for newest vessel
BC Ferries and the First Peoples' Cultural Council revealed the artwork that will decorate the side of the newest Salish Class ferry.
The design by Penelakut artist Maynard Johnny Jr. shows a heron in flight and will be displayed on the exterior and interior of the Salish Heron.
Along with the artwork, ferry passengers will also be able to read about the relationship that Coast Salish Peoples have with the Salish Sea.
“For me, the story was to present something that people would know by seeing it what it was, but still had to study the piece to understand that it is a majestic bird,” said the artist. “In my territory of Chemainus and Penelakut, before contact, herons were very prominent and we followed them because they were our guide for where all the fish were.”
“Stories from our traditions and our culture can be very basic or they can be very powerful and spiritual,” he said.
Johnny Jr. says his heron design uses vibrant colours like yellow, purple and turquoise, along with varying shades of blue, to express his signature style of Coast Salish art.
“I wanted to create something that was playful, colourful and appealing to the eye,” said Johnny Jr. “I’m taking my art and using it as a vehicle so people can understand how history has affected [First Nations people], because there are so many things that have kept us down and art is a brilliant way to express the beauty of our culture and open the door to talk about these hard topics.”
The design was selected by a committee of Indigenous artists and representatives from BC Ferries. The criteria considered by the committee was the ability to express the vessel’s name through artwork in the Coast Salish artistic style.
The Salish Heron is the fourth Salish Class vessel to display Indigenous art.
BC Ferries says the names of the ferries and the artwork not only recognizes the first people to navigate the Salish Sea, the art also honours indigenous history and culture.
“It's one of the ways our two cultures can connect,” said BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins. “We can gain a deeper understanding, get to know one another and that leads to all kinds of potential solutions on more difficult issues.”
Johnny Jr. says he hopes when people see the vessel sail by, they will see his depiction of the heron and ask questions about the culture of the Coast Salish people.
“Being able to share our stories and share our culture and the history of our people is very important to me,” said Johnny Jr. “This is a great way to do that. It’ll open people's minds to listen more about what is happening and what needs to change.”
BC Ferries expects the Salish Heron to join the three other Salish Class vessels on the Gulf Islands routes beginning in the spring. The Salish Heron has the capacity to carry up to 138 vehicles and as many as 600 passengers.