A newly-painted mural has been unveiled at the entrance to Port Alberni’s Harbour Quay, thanks to a community effort.
Although painting ended in August, the official celebration of the Port Alberni Arrowsmith Rotary Club’s community mural project took place on Saturday, Sept. 19. The celebration not only recognized the painting and its artists, but the community it helped to develop throughout the years.
Former Arrowsmith Rotary member Theresa Kingston first brought the idea to the club after a meeting with the city’s Reconciliation Committee in 2017. The City of Port Alberni was on board “immediately,” said Terry Deakin of the Arrowsmith Rotary Club, and the Port Alberni Port Authority (which owns the building) and Canadian Maritime Engineering (which leases the building) also expressed support.
“The idea was to paint a mural themed around reconciliation,” explained Deakin.
However, throughout the process of planning the mural, hiring an artist and raising funds, the theme of the mural changed. The project was initiated in the spirit of reconciliation, but soon became a “building relationships” project, said Deakin.
“That helped us to acknowledge that we need to build community, we need to build relationships between our communities,” she said.
Port Alberni artist Shayne Lloyd was selected as the “lead artist” of the project, but he collaborated with Nuu-chah-nulth artists Tim Paul and Gordon Dick and consulted with members of Tseshaht First Nation before the painting began.
“When I first applied for this, I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Lloyd admitted on Saturday. “At the end of the day, I feel honoured to be part of a group effort. I consider myself a conduit through which this project could happen.”
The project was largely organized and funded by the Port Alberni Arrowsmith Rotary Club. Its location at the entrance to Harbour Quay acts as a sort of base or “anchor” to the Rotary Arts District, explained Arrowsmith Rotary president Pam Craig on Saturday.
“It was a true community effort to have this mural come to fruition,” she said.
It was this community that gathered outside of the Port Alberni Train Station across the street from the mural on Saturday. Members of Tseshaht First Nation offered songs, while local political leaders offered their support and gratitude for the project.
Archeologist Denis St. Clair explained the story behind the mural. The image depicts the area now known as Harbour Quay, which was the Nation’s winter village where they celebrated their year’s harvest with a “wolf ritual.” In the centre are five portraits, representing the leaders of the five different First Nations based in the Broken Group Islands that amalgamated to create Tseshaht. The portrait in the centre depicts Tyee Haw’iih (hereditary chief) Adam Shewish.
On the right side of the mural is a picture of a young, modern-day Tseshaht First Nation child, representing the Nation’s future.
“We understand that the art of giving is the greatest art of all,” said artist Tim Paul on Saturday. “We need to always give to our young ones.”
Members of Tseshaht First Nation presented gifts on Saturday to the artists, as well as Terry Deakin for her role in organizing the project.
“[The mural] has brought so much pride to not only Tseshaht people but to the community as a whole,” said Tseshaht elected chief councillor Cynthia Dick. “It’s not just Tseshaht history, but recognizing our shared history as a community of the Port Alberni Valley.”
In the coming months, a plaque will be installed on the mural to explain the story behind it. To raise funds for the project, the Arrowsmith Rotary Club has been selling bricks at $25 a piece. Deakin says about half of the bricks have been sold to date. To purchase one, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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