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New Coast Salish mural revealed at Richmond school

“It’s a learning opportunity for people, and that’s one of my priorities right now," says Indigenous artist Atheana Picha.

“Salish design and art … is our responsibility to tell stories.”

Atheana Picha, a McNair alumna and interdisciplinary Salish artist with the Kwantlen First Nation, was joined by students, school district staff and city dignitaries at Garden City elementary for the reveal of the school’s newest mural on Tuesday afternoon.

Picha said the mural represents the community and is an encouragement for people to do their best for those who they represent.

“At the core of it, it’s meant to represent who we are as a community in the broader sense, not just Indigenous people, which is a priority to me,” she said.

“It’s a beautiful reminder of people coming together in different ways.”

Picha told the Richmond News she is aiming to share more stories about the Indigenous people and culture through Coast Salish design and artwork.

“I feel like sometimes people are nervous around Indigenous artwork,” she said, adding there has been a lack of education around Indigenous art for a long time.

“It’s the lack of understanding of territory, maps or the people that are here and people talk like we left, but we didn’t,” said Picha

While students are getting more opportunities to learn about Indigenous culture through school, the mural is an example of kids teaching their parents and families through shapes and symbols, Picha explained.

“It’s a learning opportunity for people, and that’s one of my priorities right now.

“If we jump too far into it, it can intimidate a lot of people because there is a fear of not knowing what’s been taught to us, but working with students because they’re not afraid to ask why.”

During the designing and painting process, Picha said she appreciated the support from the school and the city.

“I really appreciate the city’s mural program, it provides a lot of opportunities for artists like me to share my work and our purpose behind it.”