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Seascape and salmon run showcase local artistic talents

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UFV students are bringing colour and a new coat of paint to previously uninspiring locations around campus this semester. As part of the Visual Arts 390, Community Arts Practice course, students have refurbished the Abbotsford campus benches, and are in the process of creating two murals, one at the Abbotsford campus, the other at Chilliwack CEP.

Chris Friesen, associate professor in the visual arts department, and former president of the Abbotsford Art Council, has been running the course since 2004. Last year, a pilot project was launched to work with the university, creating an oasis inspired mural on shipping containers on the Abbotsford campus, north of C building, and a mountain landscape on the gunwall at CEP.

“Athletics is beside themselves with the landscape mural,” Friesen said. “They show it off at every opportunity. They’re thrilled to have it, and that’s why we’ve been invited back.”

In the initial half of the course, students conducted a survey of potential locations for their art, considered what is possible for the space, and created a budget for the project. The entire project was then proposed to a panel of UFV representatives for project approval.

“It was a very long process,” Chantelle Trainor-Matties, a UFV student working on the Abbotsford art, said regarding the approval process for their mural. “Even longer than the other ones because of the Indigenous artwork.”

“At the end of the day, we all agreed it was worth the effort and red tape we had to go through,” Alexandra Johnson, another student working on the mural, said.

The Abbotsford campus mural will be located on the outdoor spiral staircase leading up from the cafeteria and compliments the Indigenous mural at the top of the stairs created by artist Fred Jackson. The work features an underwater scape with salmon swimming upstream.

The little ones at the bottom are the first-year students just starting out, and the bigger ones are the alumni,” said Cobi Timmermans, who created the original design for the staircase. “When the salmon return to the stream, it’s like the alumni coming back to their stomping ground.”

“That’s why they’re swimming upstream, too,” Johnson added. “It shows the struggle of trying to get to the top.”

Fred Jackson has been working directly with the students on their mural to connect with his piece and the spindle wheel in front of it. His work features a mountain scape, complimenting the salmon spawning grounds on the spindle, which he said the students tied in nicely with their work.

“It was very well done on their part,” Jackson said over email. “I like their enthusiasm and enjoyed answering any questions they had.”

The nearby refurbished benches were painted in a rainbow, with each bench along the path being a spectrum of one of the colours. Friesen said the design was inspired by wayfinding and wellness, encouraging those on campus to walk the length of the path to view the entire piece. It also tied in with the rainbow crosswalk outside of A building.

In Chilliwack, the mural will be located on the other side of the mountain scape created last year to cover the large concrete wall on the old RCMP gun range in the Quonset hut building. Because the area is used by health sciences, the students chose a calming seascape at dusk, with rich purples and pinks of the sky reflecting off the ocean. The design was based off of working with the formal relationship of the space.

“It’s taking the cement wall that is the gun range — let’s call it the pitted gun range at that because there’s bullet holes all over the place, including the tent above — and trying to create a tranquil place,” Friesen said.

In regards to what they get out of the course, Friesen hopes the students, in addition to learning the ins and outs of getting your work in a public place, will leave with a sense of pride in their accomplishment.

Images: Jenny Kingma & Erin Caskey

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