First Nations highlight 2022 version of mural festival in Nelson

·4 min read

First Nations artists will dominate the 2022 version of the Nelson International Mural Festival, with Sinixt/Arrow Lakes band and the Tl'azt'en being represented.

Emma Noyes of the Sinixt/Arrow Lakes Band of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville and local resident Damian John of the Tl'azt'en — a First Nation located in the Stuart Lake area north of Fort St. James — will be this year’s lineup for the festival, which gained approval from council on Tuesday night.

The Nelson and District Arts Council (NDAC) had requested that city council allow two murals to be painted on city-owned property. NDAC is the proponent of the two requests, proposed as part of this year’s annual Nelson International Mural Festival.

The first proposal is on the north facing wall of the Capitol Theatre (421 Victoria Street) and is designed by Noyes who is a member of the Sinixt. The second proposal is on the north facing retaining wall between the Salvation Army and the old Nelson Cares building, designed by John.

Mural approval

The city’s Official Community Plan and the mural policy allow for mural applications in the Downtown Development Permit area.

As the property owner, city council’s permission is required to paint murals on city property.

Each year since 2018 council approved multiple proposed murals for city property for the annual Nelson International Mural Festival.

City policy states that the Cultural Development Committee (CDC) must review mural applications and that their recommendation must be taken into account before a permit is issued. The CDC has recommended that both murals be approved.

Emma Noyes

Noyes is an artist, researcher and educator living and working in Spokane, WA.

Emma has continued the storytelling traditions of her family by finding new ways to depict characters of chaptix’/coyote stories with an emphasis on coyote’s wife, mole woman.

Drawing inspiration from both sides of her family, she incorporated her appreciation for Scandinavian art and design as a nod to her Danish heritage. She mainly works in brush and ink and also creates digital work.

Noyes has kept a daily journal full of illustrations for over 10 years. Her book, Baby Speaks Salish (2020), was published by Scabland Books and is available on the publishers’ website.

Emma’s artwork is created in a little studio in the home where she lives with her partner, Jake, daughter, Maren, and mostly-good dog, Ketchpen.

Design concept

Animal people from chaptx’ (traditional stories) including mole, coyote, mountain goat and blue jay are at a winter dance held by mole.

She is at the centre pole singing and her power is included in the image as the background silhouette. The word extant is spread across the background and it calls attention to Sinixt people, stories and life ways being the very antonym of extinct. Being all that which cannot be lost or destroyed.

Source: Nelson and District Arts Council

Damian John

Tl'azt'en artist Damian John is a professional artist and muralist working with acrylic, digital and sculptural mediums.

John is an artist highly influenced by his indigenous heritage who uses his art to explore. He is self-taught and continues to grow as he explores his passion for creation, trying to find a voice for the various spaces his mind and emotion inhabit.

Design concept

John’s mural is a few things: “I love birds and I love stories and I love the idea of mythical beings whispering secrets to us,” he noted. “I think we’re the stories we consume and we are the stories we share and so we have to be thoughtful about these things.

“So, it’s a take on creation stories, in part, but it’s also my love of line work and colours and how a few lines of popping, bright colours can tell a story and that’s a kind of magic.

“It also speaks to community, diversity and reconciliation, but one has to think a little wilder to make those connections. I think I might call it bird talker, which is a sweet band and could be the unofficial soundtrack of the piece.”

Source: Nelson and District Arts Council

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

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