Driving off the ferry just got a lot more colourful with the unveiling of the Snug Cove Gateway Mural.
The 16 panels along the lock block wall, headed by artists Di, Sarah Haxby, and Paula Love, were seen by the public for the first time at the Family Day ceremony, which drew well over 100 people. There was also music and activity tables, and a shining sun.
It was the culmination of a project months in the works, starting last summer when the trio of artists began soliciting ideas of what people wanted to see along the wall. 150 people responded, leading to the wide array of plant and animal life represented, along with notable island locations.
The task wasn’t without its challenges though. “We painted through heat – so hot that the paint was drying on the brushes as we were dragging it across the panels,” says Haxby. “We painted through the wildfire smoke, and we had to move from our outdoor location to another location. This wasn’t the first time or the last time that we have to move the 16 – very heavy – 4 X 8 panels.”
“We also were dealing with a little bit of a pandemic, and that made the scheduling challenging,” Haxby added. “By September and October we had cold, wet rain to paint in as well. So it was an adventure.”
The project saw dozens of Bowen artists, ranging from the island’s youngest painters to seasoned vets, chip in to complete various sections of the mural.
Key backers of the project included the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), Sangre de Fruta Botanical, and the province. Scott Massey, PAAC chair, says community responses were incredibly key to the mural’s success.
“The main focus of the call was obviously a celebration of the place that is Bowen Island with a particular emphasis on our local flora and fauna. I think you will all agree that the mural artists kind of nailed that one... But even more importantly the Gateway Mural tells a story through all of the incredible details of our community,” says Massey.
“It’s really special to have had the opportunity to help bring everyone together on this project and incorporate so many different artists and kids and kind of be the backbone that holds up this community art project,” says Di. “That’s really special to have been able to help with that.”
In addition to the prominent characters there are also many hidden local references scattered along the 128 feet of art. From Keystone the Cat, to the Black Sheep, to a contribution from the Undercurrent’s own Ron Woodall, there is something new to find with each viewing.
“I’m very grateful to have worked with Sarah and Di, it was an incredible and beautiful journey,” says Love. "And also the participation of the community. That was our main goal, to do something where everyone can put their input and participate and represent different parts of the community… Every panel represents an area of the island, and is important and tells you something about this important place.”
S7aplek and Spakwus Slolem (Bob Baker and the Squamish Eagle Song Dancers) blessed the mural with cedar boughs to close the ceremony. “When we come together as families like we’re gathered here today, we want to ensure that we’re going to be moving forward in a good way altogether. So we have a ceremony to neutralize negativity and any heaviness that might have found its way to our gathering, and in particular to that beautiful mural, then we want to erase that and put a protection on it,” explained Baker.
“And the ancestors will keep an eye on it for us. And to let it know that we are appreciative of what it represents.”
Mayor Gary Ander also spoke about what the artwork means to the island community. "This amazing mural is not only a beautiful work of art, but also a celebration of our unique identity and sense of place. It demonstrates our appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage of our island, and the joy and peace we absorb from this place," he says.
"It defines the community. For the visitors to our island it says: This is what we’re all about. Please tread lightly."