The interior of the Beban Park pool is getting a paint job inspired by the ecosystems of the Nanaimo River estuary.
The City of Nanaimo announced in a press release that this month seven banners and three murals designed by Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, are being installed at the facility while it remains closed to the public.
White-Hill, a recent VIU grad, said his goal is to create a connection between the audience and the art, as well as a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the history, culture and nature of Snuneymuxw and their territory.
“I want to show other people who we are,” he said in the release. “I want future generations of Coast Salish people to grow up surrounded by our art. I want to honour our territory by wrapping it in the blanket of our art once more. I feel strongly that it will form a connection between all peoples who live in our territory and see it. A connection that will create space where empathy and understanding can flourish across cultural divides.”
According to the press release, the project, one of White-Hill’s first major commissions, is “informed by a worldview about the interconnectedness and sacred nature of all life” and “communicates knowledge about the cultural heritage and the biodiversity of this region.” The work also promotes learning of the Coast Salish language Hul’q’umi’num through interpretive signage and a take-away guide that features information, language and stories related to the art.
In creating his work, White-Hill consulted with the Snuneymuxw First Nation elders advisory committee and Hul’q’umi’num language teacher Gary Manson. The city provided a team to support White-Hill which included Nanaimo Art Gallery curator Jesse Birch, graphic designer Cory Landels and mural painter Jesse Campbell.
“Eliot has a powerful voice and is a gifted storyteller,” said Julie Bevan, the city’s manager of culture and events, in the release. “We wanted to empower him to realize an ambitious vision and tell stories through art in this well-used community facility, where so many different people gather.”
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said in the release that the project will make the pool more welcoming and provide “inspiration and joy” to its thousands of annual guests.
“This young and talented artist’s work communicates stories, values and language that are critical to our understanding of the history of this land, our understanding of the present and ultimately our shared future,” he said in the release.
A date for the pool reopening has yet to be determined.