A new batch of street banners representing the preservation of nature are going up this month as part of the City of Nanaimo’s street banner design program.
City workers are hanging the banners, which bear brightly coloured images of cedar branches and the Nanaimo estuary, from lamp posts in the downtown and along major routes including Bowen Road and Third Street. The banners will be up until November.
This year’s banner theme is ‘Nanaimo 2121: one hundred years forward,’ and artists were asked to submit designs that imagined what the city might look like one century from now. In the end, two designs by artist Becky Thiessen were chosen. She beat out 11 other entries and will receive a $2,500 honorarium.
Thiessen moved to Nanaimo from Winnipeg three years ago to study community planning at VIU and since then she’s been wanting to have more of an artistic presence in the city. She said she was “completely thrilled” to learn that her entry was selected.
“It just affirmed my love and dedication to the arts and I was glad to be able to contribute to this city,” she said. “This is a city that I haven’t contributed in a lot of ways in terms of the arts community … and I’m really pleased to be able to contribute visually with the banners.”
Thiessen said at first she struggled with the Nanaimo 2121 theme. She said the pandemic left her feeling “pretty dystopic” and she couldn’t bring herself to imagine what Nanaimo might look like in the future. Instead, she started thinking of what she hopes will remain: the natural environment.
“I thought about the cedars and how tall they stand and hoping that they continue to stand that way,” Thiessen said. “And then thinking about the Nanaimo estuary, I often go there for walks, so [I was] thinking about the rich ecology there and hoping that that also is an area we can enjoy 100 years into the future.”
City of Nanaimo culture and events coordinator Allison Collins said what made Thiessen’s designs stand out was her approach to the Nanaimo 2121 question as well as her use of colour. She said the designs can be enjoyed from near and far.
“With the bigger, larger banners that are on city streets, you can’t always tell exactly what it is from super far away when you’re in your car but what you can see is the colour, and the colour really shines forward in that context,” Collins said. “But then when you get up close you get to look at all these little details and it’s rewarding in a different way.”