Coast Salish artist chosen to create designs for new Gulf Islands ferry

A Coast Salish artist from Chemainus has been selected to create art to adorn a new ferry set to serve Pender, Saturna, Mayne and Galiano islands beginning next year.

The Salish Heron, under construction in Poland, will be the fourth Salish-class vessel in B.C. Ferries’ fleet.

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All Salish-class vessels are to carry Coast Salish designs by various artists, to honour the Salish people as the region’s first mariners.

Maynard Johnny Jr. is Coast Salish from Penelakut on his father’s side and is connected to Cape Mudge Kwakwaka’wakw on his mother’s side.

“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,” Johnny said in a statement.

The Chemainus artist was selected from 36 expressions of interest that were whittled down to a short list of six artists.

B.C. Ferries said in a statement that Johnny is known for using bold, bright colours and graceful lines in his work, embodying the beauty and energy of contemporary Coast Salish art while drawing upon the rich history of Coast Salish two-dimensional design.

The ferry’s name was chosen after a public naming contest in 2015. Other Salish-class ferries are called Orca, Raven and Eagle.

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council worked with B.C. Ferries to call for submissions in March and participated in the artist selection process.

Tracey Herbert, chief executive of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, said Johnny’s work “will travel the Salish Sea, expressing Indigenous strength and brilliance to all who see it.”

The Salish Heron is being built by Remontowa Shipbuilding Ltd. of Gdansk, Poland.

The 107-metre long vessel will be able to carry at least 138 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew. It will run on liquefied natural gas to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, or ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel.

It replaces the smaller Mayne Queen, which ran solely on diesel fuel, and was built in Victoria in 1965.

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