Nanaimo unveils new utility covers designed by First Nation artist

(Sean Fenzl)
The new utility covers are shown.

The City of Nanaimo is showing off its new eye-catching utility covers which were created by a local Snuneymuxw First Nation artist.

The new covers will be rolled out over the next few months and years, and will eventually replace all current covers across the city.

The utility covers were designed by Joel Good and studio Ay Lelum, also known as the Good House of Design.

“It’s really important to tell the story of the land where you are and shares the history of Nanaimo and brings it back into these public spaces where people can learn and enjoy,” said Aunalee Boyd-Good, of the Good House of Design.

The covers include two eagles for storm drains, a frog for sanitary covers, and an orca for water covers.

Meaning behind the art

The eagles on the storm drains are considered “supernatural,” according to a release from the city Wednesday, and represent “strength, resilience and protection.”

“The City of Nanaimo commits to safeguarding the community during storms and ensuring a safe environment for its residents,” said the municipality.

Meanwhile, the frog is a figure known for purifying water sources in nature, and the city says it’s “dedicated to maintaining a clean and sustainable sanitary system for the well-being of its citizens.”

Lastly, the orca depicted on the city’s water covers highlight the animal’s historic symbolization of power and strength in hul’q’umi’num’ culture.

It’s a message that’s echoed in the city’s goal of “preserving and protecting its marine environment” and “acknowledging the importance of water conservation and responsible usage,” according to the municipality.

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From left to right: Keith Reymerink, Joel Good, Aunalee Good, Annalisa Fipke, & Teresa Dohm. Image by Sean Fenzl.

Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Michael Wyse thanked the contributing artists for their efforts on the new utility covers, which will be used in the city for at least the next decade.

“From an Ancestral lens, art holds important knowledge and reminds us of our connection and responsibilities to the natural world,” he said.

“We extend our gratitude to our Snuneymuxw artists who generously share their gifts with the community.”

The city says it paid the artist a nominal fee and $20,000 to a Washington State firm for the casting moulds to produce the covers.

The city’s mayor says the project’s cost isn’t high.

“It’s a testament to history, it’s a testament to culture and it’s a reminder of the beauties and wonders of public art. It’s not going to cost us anything so to speak. As these covers require replacing they’re be replaced with pieces of public art,” said Leonard Krog.

The City of Nanaimo says while art on utility covers has been done in other BC cities, such as Vancouver, it believes it’s a first for Vancouver Island.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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