A new mural has been unveiled at Alberni District Secondary School.
The mural, which can be found in the ADSS Theatre wing, follows the theme of “Building Community” and was painted by students at ADSS, with assistance from Nuu-chah-nulth Education Workers at the school.
The First People’s Cultural Council provided funding and support for the project.
“This is one of their initiatives, to give grants out for art,” said project lead Georgina Sutherland.
The three paintings were designed by Sutherland, along with fellow artists Jake Gallic and Kerry Erickson, before ADSS students completed the painting job.
”Some of the students did 60-100 hours in seven weeks,” said Sutherland during the official unveiling on Tuesday, June 11. “I have such admiration for the students that were with me. From the very first day, their hands were real shaky. They were really nervous. But by the end, they were really strong artists and we couldn’t be here today without their help.”
The mural consists of three paintings, each telling their own stories.
The first one depicts the Somass River, as well as several different characters—a bear swiping at salmon, a man transforming into a wolf and a sasquatch hidden in the forest.
Sutherland said the painting represents “The New Generation” taking back their language and culture.
“It’s no longer a time to be afraid to share your language,” explained Sutherland. “We came from a time where it was against the law for us to speak our own language. Having this here was really an honour to all those elders and people that were not allowed to speak their language anymore.”
The second panel depicts “The Tenth Wave” and is meant to represent the women and children of the community “coming alive to wake up” as they rise to the surface. It features an underwater scene, with jellyfish, an octopus, a seal and a family of grey whales.
The third and final panel is a painting of Mount Arrowsmith. Erickson, the artist, said she always imagined a face in the mountain. In fact, in Nuu-chah-nulth legend, the mountain is a face.
“When the flood came, the Tseshaht had to tie up their canoes, so this woman rose up and became part of the mountain,” Erickson explained.
The panel also features some of the animals you can see in the Alberni Valley—bears, an eagle and a hummingbird. There are also two figures wearing red for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
The entire project took around six or seven weeks to complete.
“It was about a week of just sketching, getting the designs up,” said ADSS teacher Moira Barney.
Barney explained that students used a combination of classroom time and free time to work on the paintings.
“The theme was community and the idea of building the community,” she said. “We thought, how do we represent our community? We drew a lot from our environment and our territories.”