On Saturday afternoon the street in front of the Nanaimo Art Gallery was closed off for a celebration of the installation of a new piece of art upon the building’s face.
Supernatural Eagle Bringing the Sun Back to the World is a cedar carving by father and son artists William and Joel Good referencing a Coast Salish origin story. From its perch high on the building’s facade it is the crown jewel of a redesign of the front entrance, which includes new doors and signage.
On Oct. 13 members of the public, the gallery and its board of directors gathered to see the newly unveiled piece for the first time.
“The story that this sculpture embodies is about the sun being returned to the people after a time of darkness,” NAG executive director Julie Bevan said in her remarks. “In the words of the Goods, the supernatural eagle represents enlightenment, healing, peace and a connection to the heavens. It’s a story that’s well suited to our times.”
Other speakers included Snuneymuxw elder Lolly Good and Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson. There were also musical performances by Footprints of the Wolf and Willie Thrasher.
“I think it looks pretty good,” Joel said of his recently installed sculpture. “I’m pretty young, I’ve got a long way to go, improving constantly. But I did the best I could with where I’m at right now.”
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— Josef Jacobson (@josefjacobson89) October 13, 2018
Joel said it took around three months to make the sculpture and it was based on a design he had previously envisioned. When NAG curator Jesse Birch approached him and William in the summer to make the sculpture, he said it was an opportunity to use that image.
William said the art helps preserve Snuneymuxw culture and gives young people something to be proud of. He said it’s been a lifelong dream to see the next generation take ownership of their art forms.
“I’m so proud of the people that are speaking Hul’qumi’num now and singing Hul’qumi’num songs,” he said. “My late mother and the elders’ group that they had, they had a great concern that we would be losing our language, our culture, our songs. And now they have kept it.”
In August the gallery launched a fundraising campaign to help finance the creation and installation of the sculpture. In 45 days 78 individual donations from the Nanaimo area and as far as Ottawa brought in $23,400, more than twice the initial $10,000 goal. Some of those donors were in attendance on Saturday and Bevan concluded by thanking them.
“To all of our partners and donors and volunteers, thanks for your confidence and your trust and believing with us that art has the capacity to build bridges, to help us imagine new ways of being in the world and to connect us to art, to ideas, to stories and to each other,” she said.
“We hope that this work, which is built with a lot of love and made of and for this place becomes a new symbol and a new kind of landmark for Nanaimo.”