Painting a picture
Let me paint you a picture. It’s of the Westside mural, installed on the wall of the Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre. This is Suk’wtemsqilxw West Kelowna Arts Council (SWAC)’s gift to the Community, to celebrate the proud event of West Kelowna becoming a city. The mural’s ofÀcial unveiling takes place this weekend, after the Canada Day Parade. Have you looked it closely? Early in 2015, several artists had a vision. They wanted to form a cooperative, run by volunteers, where artists of both the local First Nations and West Kelowna could gather in an inclusive environment to nurture artistic creativity. Hence SWAC was born, and is Áourishing. But back in early 2015, it was just beginning. Back in early 2015, Rebekah Wilkinson had a vision. Would West Kelowna support a community art project? A striking, big-scale project? SWAC embraced Rebekah’s vision. They decided upon an oversized mural that would allow the collective vision to blossom, placed where all the world could see and enjoy. A perfectly appropriate theme was chosen: “New Beginning”. Now—how to go about actually doing it?
Rebekah and the SWAC Board brain-stormed, strategized and organized, (in-between their real jobs), to Áesh-out the project. Firstly, where to place the mural? Not that many public buildings have a large, easily viewed, accessible surface. Then, how to proceed? A) Send out an artist’s call for submissions; B) Pick a design; C) Paint! Simple, right? Not exactly…
Wanting to have the mural completed during Westside Culture Daze, they were up against a time-crunch. Rebekah prepared a Presentation to the West Kelowna Council, and with true, cooperative Community spirit, they accepted Matthew Brown’s design by unanimous vote. Because, you see, Matt had a vision, too.
For design inspiration, Matt hiked up Mt. Boucherie, which has long been signiÀcant to the Sylix First Nation. The view from up there inspired him, so he took pictures, then went home and developed his vision. Orange and blue were the artwork’s foundation, invoking light from different times of day. Mythical, silhouetted—yet undoubtedly Okanagan. Matt then cleverly featured symbols and characters, hidden in the mountains and clouds. Can you spot grapes? Straw? Quails?
The execution of the mural would not proceed without some gremlin interference. The wrong plywood was ordered. Painters got called away. They ran out of primer. But the donors at Cloverdale came through with Áying colours and saved the day.
Matt Brown included meaningful entities from the Sylix’s rich oral history in his vision, for which Staff from Snc-wips Heritage Museum supplied the historical research. Saskatoon Bush (seeya), bitter root (speetlum), salmon (nitytikxw) and bear (skimxist), are also either hidden, or prominent, in the landscape. Our local legendary water spirit, Ogopogo (N-ha-a-itk) can also be seen bobbing in the waves! But all good paintings must end, and eventually, the project was satisfactorily completed.
Now that you have the whole picture, please join Mayor Doug Findlater, SWAC and council member Bob Kusch, and Matt Brown in the mural’s ofÀcial dedication, taking place this Saturday, July 1, at 1 p.m. after the parade. We hope to see you there!
And why not visit the SWAC Gallery, No. 214, 3654 Gosset Rd (between Landmark Theatre and Blenz) and meet some of our artists and volunteers. We have wonderful art for your every need. Check for opening hours at swac-arts.com/swacart-gallery.html. To become a SWAC Member or volunteer for future Projects, please send an email to: volun[email protected]
Kerry Rawlinson’s second career is following muses around the Okanagan, barefoot. She’s a poet, writer, photographer & Artist and has been recently published. Raised in Zambia, and having worked all over Canada, Kerry & husband Geoff now call Peachland home.
Matt Brown while painting the mural.