Work is scheduled to start on a public art installation at least 12 feet high in the middle of the Hwy16/Hwy37 roundabout in Thornhill.
Financed through a $677,049 provincial government grant, Su-gigyet (Ts’msyen for ‘new people’) will be the creation of three local artists, each contributing one facet to the project.
Master Indigenous carver Stan Bevan is providing a centrepiece of three human forms in wood to be shrouded in aluminum sculpted by Mike Sorochan.
Roderick Brown is providing six nine-foot wooden salmon carvings to surround the work of Bevan and Sorochan.
The project is the latest public art installation of the Skeena Salmon Arts Festival Society, the group which has commissioned numerous murals on buildings in Terrace’s downtown core and the sponsor of an arts exhibition each summer featuring various artists’ depictions of salmon.
It is also the largest single project to be undertaken by the society and is the product of years of planning, explained society president Dave Gordon.
He said the concept of a regionally-significant public artwork to recognize First Nations and to advance reconciliation came about in 2018 during the provincial transportation and infrastructure ministry’s initial discussions about what might go in the middle of the roundabout.
Then the president of the Greater Terrace Beautification Society, Gordon was involved in those discussions because the society had been maintaining the greenspace area around the previous four-way stop.
There was some talk about landscaping the middle of the roundabout but Gordon said that was impractical.
“It’s easy to put in landscaping but then you need to maintain it. You would also need water at that site,” he said.
Instead, Gordon brought up the idea of an art installation, something he said the ministry quickly embraced.
“They were really keen on the idea,” he said as initial talks led to a memorandum of understanding between the arts society and the ministry.
A foundation for the installation was built in as part of the roundabout’s construction and conduit has been included for the lighting that will illustrate the installation.
“They were thrilled to have a community partner. They really wanted to do something but art installations really aren’t their thing,” said Gordon.
Leading up to the successful grant application from the provincial tourism, arts, culture and sport ministry, Gordon estimated the transportation ministry spent $100,000 on engineering, design and other work in readying the foundation for the installation.
With the grant now approved, Gordon is looking forward to the three artists beginning to meet so as to collaboratively develop the details of their creations before they start work on them.
The society’s contract with the ministry calls for completion by September 2025.
“I think they see this as a real destination,” Gordon said of the installation. “And we really want to elevate First Nations art in the community. This will really appeal to the community. We have some of the best artists in the world right here.”
Lighting specialist Kysu Consulting is providing advice at no charge and the Kitimat-Stikine regional district will be the installation’s permit holder.
Separate from the installation, a viewing location with interpretative signs is to be built in the public parking area just south of the roundabout. Gordon hopes it will also contain miniature artworks so people have an appreciation of the expertise involved in the larger installation.
This viewing location is meant to satisfy the curiosity of visitors and so lessen the temptation for large numbers of people to cross through the roundabout on foot for a more up-close look at the installation.