A new sculpture has been raised outside the Museum of Surrey.
Four paddles and a circular base make up a new public art display called “The Rivers that Connect Us.”
The artwork is located on the edge of Highway 10 and will greet both visitors to Cloverdale and commuters that pass through town.
The public artwork was designed and created by the team at Fort Langley’s K’wy’iye’ Spring Salmon Studio consisting of Phyllis Atkins, Drew Atkins, and Aaron Jordan.
“The paddles are a symbol of welcoming and respect,” said Phyllis, studio owner and Kwantlen First Nation artist. “We wanted the four paddles to represent the four directions and they stand on a spindle-whorl that represents a compass.”
She said the piece was designed to welcome people to the museum as the 16-foot high paddles are raised in a traditional Coast Salish way that means peace and respect. The traditional greeting was used as a way to greet travellers who would arrive in villages by canoe.
Phyllis said she also incorporated seven Salish Eye designs around the spindle-whorl base. “They represent the seven traditional teachings of the Kwantlen peoples: health, happiness, generations, generosity, humility, forgiveness, and understanding.”
When Drew and Aaron Jordan first raised the paddles, Phyllis said she stepped back to get a better view and was overcome by emotion.
“I was holding back tears,” she said. “It was a very happy day because we’ve been through so much. We’ve taken this from the drawing, through the rendering, to the fabrication, and now installation. I’m really proud of my husband Drew who managed the entire project, and Aaron Jordan. It’s unbelievable how they created this from our drawings to what you see now.”
Drew noted the artwork was inspired by traditional methods of travel and the reasons for that travel.
“Canoe journeys were a form of communities getting together,” he explained. “So the idea of bringing people together and honouring diversity was at the centre of (the design).
“The paddles represent the four directions and all the different people that come from those four directions to make Cloverdale home.”
He added K’wy’iye’ Spring Salmon Studio also wanted to honour the land-based nations with their art piece.
“Often, with all the urban sprawl around here, the land-based nations get overlooked,” he explained. “Surrey is the traditional territory of Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo First Nations. So we wanted to honour that presence on the land. We sometimes forget about that as the land becomes more urbanized around us.”
The paddles are made of steel, but because of their size and the complexity of their design, Drew said he had to use a process called hydroforming to shape them.
“There is also LED lighting inside the paddles and exterior lighting around the base. Both of these are programmable, so they’ll be programmed to turn on at sunset and to turn off at sunrise.”
Phylllis added she’s grateful for all the support they received from both the City of Surrey and the Museum of Surrey. “I can’t thank them enough.”
Phyllis also said she hopes people feel a connection their sculpture.
“The Rivers that Connect Us was meant to be welcoming for everyone.”