‘The idea is to send a message’: Indigenous artists gets first look at his design on new BC Ferries vessel

'The idea is to send a message': Indigenous artists gets first look at his design on new BC Ferries vessel
BC Ferries

An Indigenous artist has gotten his first glimpse of a design he made for the BC Ferries’ Salish Heron and he says to see his work on a ship-sized canvas is “amazing.”

Maynard Johnny Jr. is the artist behind the colourful design of the newest Salish Class vessel about to be deployed by the BC Ferries and he couldn’t be happier with how the piece turned out.

“My Heron started out as a six-inch by two-inch sketch so to see it on such a grand scale on a BC Ferries’ vessel is amazing,” says the Penelakut First Nation artist.

The full design, including wings, tail and beak of Johnny Jr’s Salish Heron, is essentially the size of a seven-storey building laid on its side and replicated around the expansive hull of the ship.

A private viewing of the vessel and its new design were held for Johnny Jr. and his family at BC Ferries’ Fleet Maintenance Unit in Richmond and seeing the piece in full left a massive impression.

“I’m hoping that my daughter and grandchildren will see the Salish Heron and know that you can achieve something special when you put your mind to it,” says Johnny Jr. who designed the piece from his art studio in Duncan.

“When they see my art on such a grand scale, I hope they’re influenced by it and have ambition to chase their goals. I’ve always wanted to influence my daughter and grandchildren to move forward in a positive way.”

Johnny Jr. — whose Indigenous name is Thii Hayqwtun — says the inspiration for the art came from the herons that reside throughout the west coast. The Heron represents nearly three decades of dedication to the Coast Salish style.

BC Ferries says that it was the time, patience, and energy invested by Johnny Jr. into mastering the two-dimensional design is what helped separate him from 36 other candidates who were vying for the opportunity to create the Salish Heron piece.

“The idea is to send a message to the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world that Indigenous People have been here since time immemorial,” says Johnny Jr. “That’s the message I want to share with people travelling on the Salish Heron. Introducing the Salish Heron and three other Salish ferries with Indigenous art to the BC Ferries fleet is a step forward. It’s a small step but every step counts.”

Salish Heron is the fourth Salish class vessel to be bestowed with Indigenous art with the name and artwork honouring and recognizing the Coast Salish as the original mariners of the Salish Sea.

BC Ferries says the class represents both the land and culture of British Columbia and the west coast travel experience.

The vessel, which is set to be deployed into service this spring, has the capacity to carry at least 138 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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