A tarp was pulled off a six-storey high public art piece made by Musqueam artist Thomas Cannell Thursday morning, revealing Pacific Northwest Indigenous symbols at the corner of a building on No. 3 Road.
“It’s the first time I’ve been this close to it, I can’t believe how tall it is,” Cannell said at the event. “Six storeys sound like a lot, but when you stand under it, it’s just mind-blowing.”
“Sea to Sky,” at 65 feet high, is a mosaic of fish, whales, eagles, salmon and humans “puzzled together under the banner of the sun, moon and stars,” explained Cannell of his four-year-long endeavour, a triangular-shaped piece of art that fits into the angular corner of The Paramount, at the corner of No. 3 and Cook roads.
“The design features traditional iconography of the Pacific Northwest and the teachings and culture of my ancestors in a story-like window into the visceral world,” Cannell said.
Describing the various elements integrated into the art piece, Cannell said the eagle – a “sacred, wise and noble creature” - at the top symbolizes power and prestige.
The salmon is a symbol of abundance, wealth and prosperity as the primary food source of the Musqueam and other Pacific Northwest nations.
“Salmon legends speak of dependability and renewal, representing the cycle of life,” he told the crowd of over a hundred that had come to the art reveal.
Blue and green have been blended to show where the sea meets the sky, he added.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cannell felt it was important to show with his artwork the similarity between animals and humans, that being their desire to be together for “safety, security, for a sense of community.”
“I hope through kindness, familiarity and compassion, we can be a community, connected by unwavering peace during times of hardship and separation – this should be all of our number-one goal,” Cannell said.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie pointed out much of the density in the city centre has been a result of the arrival of the Canada Line.
But, he added, an important component is public art that’s integrated into developments like The Paramount.
“We rely on famous and well-known and respected artists like you, Mr. Cannell, who will bring that project to life, to give it interest, something that will be a showcase for this building for generations to come,” Brodie said.
The Paramount was built by Keltic Canada, which has just bought 27 acres of industrial land near the Oval that they hope to develop into a mixed-use neighbourhood.
They also have developments in Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby.
The Paramount includes 27 affordable units for women and their children as well as senior women, run by the YWCA .
Keltic Canada is owned by Anna Wang.