Artwork unveiled for BC Ferries vessel Salish Heron

Coast Salish Artist Maynard Johnny Jr. || Photo courtesy of BC Ferries and First Peoples’ Cultural Council.
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BC Ferries and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) have revealed the artwork that will soon adorn the Salish Heron vessel.

Maynard Johnny Jr.’s design will be displayed on both the exterior and interior of the vessel for travellers to view. They will also be able to see the artist’s profile and read about the Coast Salish living relationship with the Salish Sea, according to a joint press release from BC Ferries and FPCC.

“Herons and my people once inhabited the area in what is now known as the town of Chemainus,” said Johnny. “The majestic birds were once plentiful and provided the people guidance on where fish were in abundance. I have created a Salish Heron using traditional Salish design with contemporary colours that have become my signature as a Coast Salish artist.”

Johnny added his artwork reflects the long beak, long neck, wings, tail feathers and talons of a Great Blue Heron, “I wanted to create a Salish Heron that was fascinating to the viewer and was obvious to the eye yet kept a flow of design and colour.”

His design was selected out of 36 submissions by a committee of Indigenous artist peers and BC Ferries representatives. Criteria for selection included artistic excellence, Coast Salish artistic style and ability to express the vessel name through artwork, while effectively using the available vessel surface, according to the release.

Salish Heron is the fourth Salish class vessel to be bestowed with Indigenous art. The name and artwork honours and recognizes the Coast Salish as the original mariners of the Salish Sea and represents both the land and culture of B.C. and the West Coast travel experience. Salish Heron was among the names selected by BC Ferries and community stakeholders during a public naming contest in 2015.

“The FPCC celebrates the work of Maynard Johnny Jr. and his beautiful Salish Heron design,” said Cathi Charles Wherry, FPCC special advisor. “It will serve as an expression of the ongoing, living presence of the Salish People and Nations in their homelands, and their deep relationship with the waters this vessel will travel. We are honoured to work with BC Ferries on this important project that showcases the brilliance of Indigenous artists.”

Johnny was born in 1973 in Campbell River, B.C., and is of Coast Salish descent on his father’s side from Penelakut Island and Kwakwaka’wakw on his mother’s side from Cape Mudge on Quadra Island. He is primarily a self-taught artist who has been studying and working since he was 17.

He was featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design, New York, in 2005. In 2009, Maynard’s work adorned the cedar gift boxes that were given to special guests at the Canadian Juno Music Awards. His works can also be seen in film (Say it Ain’t So) and television series (Grey’s Anatomy).

The Salish Heron is identical to the three Salish Class ferries built for BC Ferries in 2016, with capacity to carry at least 138 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew.

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