Deana Derrick

Deana Derrick

History reflected in new Williams Lake murals

Two new murals were unveiled last week in downtown Williams Lake.

Two new murals were unveiled last week in downtown Williams Lake.

One behind Deana’s Studio on Third Avenue featuring a 1920s scene in Williams Lake — the other in a stairwell at the Cariboo Friendship Society, also on Third Avenue — features a traditional First Nations fishing village.

Both projects came under the direction of local artist Dwayne Davis as part of the 2012 Alley Art Mentorship Project, funded through the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society (CCACS) and Downtown Williams Lake.

“These murals will bring years of enjoyment to both the citizens of Williams Lake and what I hope to be many art tours. This is something that will help our community in the future,” said Art Walk committee chair Willie Dye at the unveiling ceremony held at noon Thursday.

Under the mentorship project, the aim is to have murals produced in a different guise every year.

“We already have a great heritage for murals in Williams Lake, but I think there is room for many more,” Dye added.

Harry Jennings, president of CCACS, commended Davis and student artists Miranda Fontaine and Jamie Moore for their work on the murals.

“The funds were supplied by the Cariboo Regional District and the City of Williams Lake. We played a part in recommending quite a number of grants for different groups around the region and this is one of the projects that’s coming out of the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society and our ability to promote and enable artists like Dwayne to produce art around town.”

Describing the murals as “3-D impressions” of history and artistic talent, Jennings said they give people a reason to walk around town and have a look.

“It promotes internal tourism in the Cariboo and is exactly the type of thing we want to encourage,” Jennings said.

Davis thanked Fontaine and Moore for their efforts.

“Miranda and Jamie really did a lot of work when it came down to the painting. They were a big part of having the murals come together,” Davis said, adding because of the heat they often started painting at 5 a.m.

The idea of the first mural was that of a general store, he explained.

“I wanted to have people get the feeling they were back in the early 1900s. The fellow in the green jacket holding the pipe is Judge Begbie. The fellow beside him is Lloyd ‘Cyclone’ Smith.

“I wanted to put him in more for the fact that he was the only person to pass away at the Williams Lake Stampede and he was also instrumental in starting the Stampede.

“The character petting the cat is a bit of a representation of Deana Derrick’s grandfather, because it’s her building,” he said smiling.

“Other characters are there to represent the time period. I hope people enjoy it.”

Explaining the mural at the Cariboo Friendship Society, Davis said he used the area around Sugar Cane for inspiration.

“I wanted someone dip netting in the river, but the way the stairwell is set up, he would have looked like an ant, so I brought him forward. Behind him there are fish drying and over here a woman is scraping a hide, and by the door someone is berry picking.”

He wanted the viewer, when standing down at the doorway at the bottom of the stairs, to experience the scene more intimately.

“Miranda and Jamie had to work with me to do lots of research for this mural,” he added.

Friendship Society executive director Rosanna McGregor pointed to the pit house in the mural, explaining they were a tradition of the First Nations living in the Soda Creek area.

“We were not living above ground in teepees. We lived in a pit house, so there are logs that are built in there. You see people coming out of the pit house. That’s our traditional type of home. When archaeologists are out looking around studying the area that’s what they’re looking for, these dwellings that dictate where we had some of our traditional villages,” she said.

McGregor also pointed out a sweat house, important to this day to the culture as part of purifying the body and soul.

“The other piece for me was in setting up a drying rack for the salmon. I wanted to make sure what Dwayne captured was how we, as Shuswap people, dried our salmon. Our traditional way of drying salmon was very flat so when my grandmother would feed us dried salmon when I was a kid it was this big heart-shaped piece, laid out and very flat. Very much like eating a piece of jerky in texture and thickness.”

This latest installment adds to the pieces Davis had created previously in the Friendship Society building, she said.

Mayor Kerry Cook applauded the muralists and said their creations are proof the arts are alive and well in Williams Lake.

“Dwayne’s leadership as a mentor is so important. He has worked alongside our young artists to encourage them and inspire them. We want to acknowledge Dwayne and our busy and vibrant art society,” Cook said, adding it’s been a community project about history and art that brings people together.