Artwork by Phyllis and Drew Atkins

Unveilings showcase Coast Salish art

Surrey City Public Art Project includes four buffalo hide drums.

Two artworks by First Nations artists were unveiled in Surrey recently to recognize the ancestral Coast Salish village on the Fraser River – a seasonal fishing village shared by First Nations people from as far away as Nanaimo, Lummi Washington and Squamish.

A sculpture honouring the spring salmon by Phyllis and Drew Atkins was unveiled at Ocean Concrete plant, followed by the unveiling of Four Seasons drums by Brandon Gabriel and Melinda Bige at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre.

Both artworks were commissioned as an initiative of the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group to share the culture and history of the Coast Salish peoples with current residents and were sponsored by Lehigh Hanson Materials Ltd.

When artist Brandon Gabriel walked into the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre, he realized the circular mezzanine above the lobby, with windows providing views in all directions, was a perfect place to tell the story of the four seasons reflecting the long history and traditions of the Kwantlen First Nation.

To realize this vision, he and life partner Melinda Bige created four 30-inch buffalo hide drums painted with colours and symbols that represent spring, summer, fall, and winter.

For the past 60 years, the Ocean concrete plant situated under the Pattullo Bridge in Surrey has been located on the site of the former Coast Salish village.

Now a permanent sculpture marks the site of the village, at the entrance to the plant along with an information panel.

Artists Drew Atkins and his wife Phyllis Atkins, used shapes of red steel, to create the outline of a salmon, on a background of concrete formed to represent a woven cedar basket. Together they celebrates the importance of salmon to the First Nations along the Fraser River, and the history of this former fishing village where First Nations fishers and traders would camp, harvest, and process fish during the abundant summer months.

For more information about the Surrey Public Art Program, visit surrey.ca/publicart

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