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Coast Salish artist’s colourful design selected for newest BC Ferries vessel

Maynard Johnny Jr. honoured for his vision for the Salish Heron
Maynard Johnny Jr. created this steering paddle orca design using a playful colour palette and as he was painting the fun colours it reminded him of how playful and happy his granddaughter is, therefore becoming granddaughter orca. “I’m proud to be a part of the Coast Salish Renaissance and perpetuating the style to the forefront of the West Coast Native Art world,” he noted. (Photo submitted)

Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr. of Chemainus has been selected to create the design that will grace BC Ferries’ newest Salish Class ferry, the Salish Heron.

Johnny, who has Penelakut heritage on his father’s side and is connected to Cape Mudge Kwakwaka’wakw on his mother’s side, has focused and perfected his art practice on Coast Salish style over 27 years.

“He was selected for his dedication to Coast Salish artistic style, and his ability to express the vessel name through artwork and apply it to the vessel,” noted BC Ferries Communications Officer Emmy McMillan.

BC Ferries and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council made the joint announcement Thursday. FPCC facilitated the call for artists and the peer review process.

The Salish Heron, currently under construction, will eventually travel in the Southern Gulf Islands and as a relief vessel between Comox and Powell River when it goes into service.

“I’m proud to be part of the Coast Salish Renaissance and to perpetuate the Salish style with colour and design on a BC Ferries vessel,” said Johnny. “To share my vibrant style and colour on the Salish Heron vessel with the surrounding areas of the Salish Sea and visitors from around the world is an honour for me.”

“We received many worthy submissions from very talented Coast Salish artists and we thank them all for their interest in designing artwork for our newest Salish Class vessel,” said Brian Anderson, BC Ferries’ vice president, strategy and community engagement. “These vessels will sail in the Salish Sea for years to come and the work of the gifted Coast Salish artists truly represent the rich culture and heritage of our coast.”

“The First Peoples’ Cultural Council has been honoured to work with BC Ferries on the artist selection process and for inviting Coast Salish artists to be considered for this opportunity,” added Tracey Herbert, chief executive officer for the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. “We raise our hands to each artist who submitted their work, and it was a privilege for those who reviewed the submissions to be involved in this process. We congratulate Maynard Johnny Jr. for having his artistic vision for the Salish Heron selected to adorn this newest vessel. His work will travel the Salish Sea, expressing Indigenous strength and brilliance to all who see it.”

What made Johnny’s design stand out was his use of bold, bright colours that embodies the beauty and energy of Coast Salish art.

The First People’s Cultural Council put out the call in March for Coast Salish artists to submit portfolios for consideration. Selection criteria included: artistic excellence, Coast Salish style and the ability to express the vessel name through artwork.

There were 36 expressions of interest and a jury of artist peers and BC Ferries representatives narrowed the submissions down to a shortlist of six before making the final selection.

In 2022, the Salish Heron will enter service with sailings to the Southern Gulf Islands as the fourth Salish Class ferry in service, joining the Salish Orca, Salish Eagle & Salish Raven – all of which are adorned with Coast Salish artwork.

The Salish Eagle has artwork designed by Chemainus resident John Marston from Stz’uminus First Nation.

Johnny has inspired many artists. He’s known not only for his prints, but also works with wood carvings and engraving precious metals.

Related story: Official opening of expanded Forbes Hall a gala affair

Johnny’s illustrious career has included being featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design in New York in 2005 and his work adorned the cedar gift boxes that were given to special guests at the Canadian Juno Music Awards in 2009. His works can also be seen in the film Say it Ain’t So and the television series Grey’s Anatomy.

This summer, Johnny was interviewed for the CBC television program Still Standing, hosted by Jonny Harris, for a segment on Chemainus. That show will be broadcast early in the new year.

Related story: Chemainus depicted in all its glory for Still Standing

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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