Leah Pipe created a beautiful mural in 2019 in Hazelton Old Town, BC.
“The Return” celebrates the annual return of salmon as they make their way from the ocean, back to their spawning grounds. Salmon are the lifeblood for all the communities situated along the mighty rivers of this region (northwest British Columbia – the Skeena River, the Bulkley River, the Nass, the Stikine). This public work of art was painted in 2019 but it was twenty years in the making! It showcases our pioneer history, our rich Gitxsan culture and our lives as river people.
I could never have predicted the level of collaborations with First Nations artists, community volunteerism and support ... and the sheer number of local people who came out to help with this project! Around seventy individuals came out to lend a hand, pick up a brush and help in some way. We definitely needed the help too – this mural took 33 days to paint!
The wood siding was old, weathered, rough and dry – our painting efforts took up to 4 times longer than had we painted these images on a canvas (in comparison). There were areas created within this mural for those that didn't have any painting experience whatsoever, giving everyone a chance to make their mark on this project – families, children, elders – everyone came out! For that reason, this project received extra support and emotional connection to our community and I feel truly blessed – at the end of it all, we had a huge community street party and celebrated together.
Our town is quiet again, the chaotic, creative hustle and bustle of mural mayhem behind us, but we'll never forget the team members who participated in this dream and how it brought our community together.