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Spirit Square sea can mural creates opportunity to make connections

Design created by interdisciplinary artist hailing from the Wuikinuxv and Klahoose Nations
Brack Hanuse Corlett poses beside the Sisiutl design he painted on a sea can located beside Spirit Square in downtown Campbell River. Photo contributed

Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s week-long residency in Campbell River began after dark on Oct. 4 preparing his mural for painting onto the sea can beside Spirit Square the next morning.

With those initial lines in place, the painting and community engagement began the following day.

“I have been thinking about painting this sea can for quite a few months and as the days turned to nights, I always came back to the Sisiutl (Double-Headed Sea Serpent) as a box design,” said Hanuse Corlett in his artist statement. “The Sisiutl carries teachings of choice and balance. I was taught that the Sisiutl is a carrier of Truth above Deceit and Love over Hate.”

The sea can, which is parked by Spirit Square, is used by the Downtown BIA as well as the Community Action Team (CAT), for storage. Hanuse Corlett was assisted by Ligwilda’xw youth Noah Decaire, employee of the CRAG’s Summer Student Program.

“The sea can’s shape has some similarities to our Bentwood Boxes that we use in ceremony/Potlatch and for storing sacred and everyday items,” Hanuse Corlett said.

It was sandblasted and primed by peers with lived experience, through a partnership with CAT and the Downtown BIA.

Hanuse Corlett hails from the Wuikinuxv, whose traditional territory is located on the shores of Rivers Inlet and Owikeno Lake, and the Klahoose, whose traditional territory spans Cortes Island to Toba Inlet.

“This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts,” Sara Lopez Assu, Executive Director of the Campbell River Art Gallery (CRAG), said, “through funding the CRAG received to create opportunities for remote Indigenous communities around the North Island and Discovery Islands to engage with professional art. I was thrilled when Bracken accepted to work on this mural, as it will create strong connections with our Klahoose neighbours, many of whom frequent Campbell River for business, pleasure, and essentials. They now get to see their culture represented here, with the net community benefit of beautifying our downtown public spaces. It’s a win for everyone.”

He was joined by members of the gallery’s Art Hive as well as members of the Klahoose Nation. People were invited to watch him work and to ask questions, many passersby were able to hear about the process directly from the artist and watch in chairs set up under Campbell River’s week-long blue skies. The official unveiling ceremony was on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at noon with blessing by Shawn Decaire of We Wai Kai Nation and Cory Cliffe of Wei Wai Kum Nation bringing their voices and drums to welcome and bless this impactful piece of public art.

RELATED: Campbell River artist Shawn Decaire unveils n̓əmy̓ut banners at the Tidemark Theatre

Hanuse Corlett initially worked in theatre and performance before shifting to his current practice that fuses painting and drawing with digital-media, audio-visual performance, animation and narrative.

He graduated from the En’owkin Centre for Indigenous Art and then went to school at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, while also receiving training in Northwest Coast art, design and carving from acclaimed Heiltsuk Artists Bradley Hunt and his sons Shawn and Dean.

Working with and researching ancestral forms is central to his work as well as an openness to working with new media and tools.

Much of his current process is collaborative, which includes working with youth, community and fellow working artists.

He has exhibited, performed and screened his work locally and internationally and has received public art commissions in a number of cities/territories.

Find him on Instagram @wuulhu

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From left: Cory Cliffe, Bracken Hanuse Corlett and Shawn Decaire bless Hanuse Corlett’s art installation during a ceremony. Photo contributed