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New art exhibition connects Richmond to Fraser River Estuary

Community members are invited to participate in a public performance celebrating the summer solstice at Garry Point Park on June 21.

A Ladner-based artist is inviting Richmond residents to join her in an interactive art exhibition that celebrates the ecology of the Fraser River Estuary.

Amy-Claire Huestis’ “MOTHLIKE/silvery-blue” exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery (RAG) is part of her ongoing story series about the character Silvery-blue.

“She is a butterfly, and she is also a person - and she is also the landscape and silvery-blue place that we live in, and it’s the Fraser River Estuary,” Huestis told the Richmond News.

Huestis’ exhibition was inspired by daily walks at Brunswick Point in Ladner and her activism advocating against the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s controversial Roberts Bank Terminal expansion.

The proposed port expansion to build a terminal on a new man-made island was approved by the federal government in May but is currently facing a judicial review filed by local environmental groups.

Huestis said she’s learned a lot about birds and science during her daily walks in these two areas, but what she’s learned is not all positive.

“I also witnessed the pollution and the environmental degradation that happens with the port,” she added.

She recalled watching the western sandpipers and their murmurations along the Fraser River. (A murmuration is the wave-like movement flocks of birds make while flying.)

“It’s amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful things to ever see. It’s like watching a school of fish, but they’re (a) huge crowd of birds and their weird, strange murmuration that is so shimmery and beautiful,” said Huestis.

“I just love them so much.”

The port expansion, however, would remove the mudflats that currently serve as a feeding ground for the western sandpiper and other shorebirds.

Witnessing stories of “incredible beauty and destruction” playing out simultaneously on the Fraser River Estuary ultimately inspired Huestis to create art with the purpose of raising awareness of the issue.

Collaborating with the community

The keyword for the Huestis’ RAG exhibition is “community involvement.”

The artwork has been created in collaboration with other artists and community groups such as Birds Canada, as well as anthropologists from UBC and Douglas College, Indigenous knowledge holders and a BC Choral Federation choir.

“(The artwork is) meant to be used as participatory pieces,” said Huestis.

Huestis, who teaches fine art at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, believes artists should integrate into the community and connect people with the environment surrounding them.

By community, Huestis doesn’t just mean people; rather, community includes wildlife, marsh grasses, the mudflats and the birds.

The actual exhibition at RAG will feature artwork created with ecologically friendly materials, including a nest at the back of the gallery made of bubble wrap collected by students at Anderson elementary and other community partners.

Huestis will also be including materials from her previous performance on the same theme in the Key Biodiversity Area of Hwuli’tth’um (Ladner) back in 2022.

The gallery space will have padded cushions to make it a “welcoming space to come and hang out,” Huestis said, adding there will be recordings of her telling stories about previous performances.

A live feed of a barn owl box in Richmond will be projected near the nest, courtesy of the city’s parks department.

Visitors will also get to participate in a reading of Huestis’ children’s book The Delta Animal Resistance. In addition, there will be a kite-making workshop and information about the Roberts Bank Terminal’s impact on the local ecology and nesting birds.

A final dance performance will take place during the exhibition’s opening on June 29.

Summer solstice at Garry Point Park

The main event is an outdoor summer solstice celebration at Garry Point Park on June 21. Community members are invited to participate by singing with the BC Choral Federation Choir, holding flags or watching the performance.

“We’re going to be walking around, doing a procession in Garry Point Park. The main thing will look like a procession with dance, choir and artworks that culminates in looking at the sun (as it sets),” Huestis explained.

Anyone can sign up to sing and no singing experience is required.

“You just have to like to sing. The pieces are very easy to follow along, and the rehearsal is just a rehearsal video,” said Huestis.

To learn more about the summer solstice performance and to sign up for the chorus performance, click here.

The exhibition will then run from June 29 to Aug. 20, starting with a free opening reception and an artist talk on June 29. For more information, click here.