This is the concept sketch for the latest Alex Witcombe driftwood project, which is a collaboration with local filmmakers Eiko Jones and Kim Isles and being crowdfunded by the community, with a person’s silhouette for scale. Image courtesy Alex Witcombe

Campbell River artists looking for a spot to put a 20-foot long driftwood salmon

Collaboration between Eiko Jones, Kim Isles and Alex Witcombe is garnering attention

When it comes to art that involves salmon in Campbell River, you likely think of local artist Eiko Jones, especially since he and his partner Kim Isles recently won a $50,000 Telus Storyhive grant to produce a documentary on that particular icon of the community.

And when it comes to things made out of driftwood, you likely think of local artist Alex Witcombe, whose driftwood sculptures have cropped up all over the community over the past couple of years, brightening everyone’s experiences out on the trails, along the beach and anywhere else they might stumble upon them.

Well, if you think it’s about time those three got together to create something, you’re in luck.

Jones and Isles have commissioned Witcombe to create a 20-foot salmon out of his preferred medium these days – driftwood from the shoreline – and are looking for public support to help make it happen.

“You know how every town has some sort of symbol that’s what they’re known for?” asks Jones, rhetorically. “Giant peach, giant hockey stick, whatever it might be? Well, we don’t have one of those.”

The seed of the idea was planted last fall during the Art and Earth Festival, when Witcombe revealed a new piece at the Patrons of the Arts Gala at the Museum at Campbell River.

“He didn’t say, exactly, that he was getting sick of the little ones he was making,” Jones says, “but he said he wanted to start getting into larger, installation-type pieces, so a couple months ago, we decided to see if we could take him at his word.”

It turns out they could.

“As soon as they brought it up, I basically just said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’” Witcombe says.

Admittedly, the plan started out as a marketing idea for their upcoming film, Salmon Capital Campbell River. It quickly morphed into much more than that, however.

Initially, they thought they’d use a big chunk of their film’s marketing budget for the $5,000 commission, Jones says, and that’s still the plan, depending on how the GoFundMe campaign goes.

“It’s not like if we don’t reach the fundraising goal it’s not going to happen,” Jones says. “We’ll still use our marketing budget to put in the balance of what we can’t raise.”

But as each day goes by, it’s looking more and more like they may be able to spend their marketing budget on actual marketing.

“We just thought the community itself might want to be involved, too,” Isles says. “And it turns out, they really are. We’ve raised something like $1,200 in just the first three or four days. There’s a lot of support for this. People are excited, I think, about two things: they enjoy the idea us being the Salmon Capital of the World and having that be represented physically, but I also think they like the idea that there will be more art around town.”

This won’t be Witcombe’s first large piece. It’s just that the people of Campbell River have yet to be graced with one of them. There’s Mayhew the Sasquatch over on Quadra and Ringwald the Mammoth down in Colwood, after all, both of which are substantial sculptures.

The team’s hope is that a location can be selected for the piece and have it be built right at that location, but Witcombe says now that he has an actual studio, he could hypothetically make it there, move it in sections and assemble it on site, should that be required.

“Ideally we’d like to see it built on-location so we can have people watch it being made and have an engaged audience, talking about salmon, talking about art, talking about history, and creating a buzz about it, rather than having it just suddenly show up somewhere one day,” Jones says.

In terms of where that “somewhere” might be, however, that’s still up in the air.

“We’ve been working with the city on where it might go, because, ultimately, they’re going to have a lot of say on that, assuming its in a public space,” Isles says, but she’s confident they’ll be able to come up with an arrangement.”

And as far as the documentary itself is going, Jones and Isles say they’ve already got a preliminary cut of the film done to be sent to Telus, and will be doing the final editing over the next few months for it to be released this coming summer.

To follow along with their progress – as well as get updates on the giant driftwood salmon project, follow Nourish Journey Productions on Facebook (@nourishjourney).

You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at gofundme.com/salmon-capital

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