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 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.

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