Salish Heron artist named

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BC Ferries, in partnership with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, has selected Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr. from Chemainus to create the design for BC Ferries’ newest Salish Class vessel, the Salish Heron.

According to a Sept. 23 press release from BC Ferries, the vessels are named to honour and recognize the Coast Salish as the original mariners of the Salish Sea.

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

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council issued a call for artists in March and invited Coast Salish artists to submit their portfolios for consideration.

From 36 expressions of interest, a jury of artist peers and BC Ferries representatives identified a shortlist of six artists. 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.

“Johnny’s signature use of bold, bright colours and graceful line work embodies the beauty and energy of contemporary Coast Salish art while drawing upon the rich history of Coast Salish two-dimensional design,” states BC Ferries. “He has been inspired by many North West Coast artists and for the past 27 years has focused on Coast Salish style and iconography in his work. Although Johnny is known primarily for his prints, he also works with wood carvings and engraving precious metals.”

Johnny was featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design, New York, in 2005. In 2009, Johnny’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 vessel Johnny’s artwork will adorn, Salish Heron, is currently under construction. It will be the fourth Salish Class vessel to join BC Ferries’ fleet and will sail in the Southern Gulf Islands starting in 2022. It will share routes with Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven, which first entered service in 2017, sailing between Comox and Powell River and in the Southern Gulf Islands.

BC Ferries held a public naming contest for the Salish Class ferries in 2015. Salish Heron was among the shortlisted names because it reflects both the land and culture of British Columbia, and the West Coast travel experience.

Working in partnership with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council to facilitate artwork commissioning for the first three Salish Class vessels, BC Ferries selected Darlene Gait from Esquimalt Nation to design the artwork for the Salish Orca, John Marston from the Stz’uminus First Nation designed the artwork for the Salish Eagle, and the Salish Raven is adorned with a design by Thomas Cannell from Musqueam.

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