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Salish artist gets first look at work on BC Ferries’ Salish Heron

Press Release

April 25, 2022

VANCOUVER – “My Heron started out as a six inch by two-inch sketch so to see it on such a grand scale on a BC Ferries’ vessel is amazing,” says Penelakut First Nation artist Maynard Johnny Jr.

It’s the first time Johnny Jr, who’s Indigenous name is Thii Hayqwtun, has seen his masterpiece on a ship-sized canvas. The wings, tail and beak of Johnny Jr’s Salish Heron is essentially the size of a seven storey building laid on its side and replicated around the expansive hull of the ship. It leaves a massive impression, not just for him but for his family too who were on hand at BC Ferries’ Fleet Maintenance Unit in Richmond for a private viewing before the vessel goes into service this Spring.

“I’m hoping that my daughter and grandchildren will see the Salish Heron and know that you can achieve something special when you put your mind to it,” adds Maynard Johnny Jr. “When they see my art on such a grand scale, I hope they’re influenced by it and have ambition to chase their goals. I’ve always wanted to influence my daughter and grandchildren to move forward in a positive way.”

It’s not an arduous journey to travel from Maynard Johnny Jr.’s Duncan studio to the canvas of his latest creation in Richmond, but distance doesn’t tell the story. The Heron represents nearly three decades of dedication to the Coast Salish style. The time, patience, and energy to master the two dimensional design is what helped separate him from 36 other candidates who were vying for the opportunity to create the Salish Heron piece.

Maynard Johnny Jr. drew inspiration for the art from the herons that reside throughout the west coast. Traditionally the birds have been guides to where the fish were abundant so Johnny Jr. used his signature style to create something that would honour that Coast Salish living relationship with the Salish Sea. The Heron is scheduled to enter service in the Southern Gulf Islands in the spring.

“The idea is to send a message to the people of British Columbia, Canada and the world that Indigenous People have been here since time immemorial,” says Johnny Jr. “That’s the message I want to share with people travelling on the Salish Heron. Introducing the Salish Heron and three other Salish ferries with Indigenous art to the BC Ferries fleet is a step forward. It’s a small step but every step counts.”

Salish Heron is the fourth Salish class vessel to be bestowed with Indigenous art. The name and artwork honours and recognizes the Coast Salish as the original mariners of the Salish Sea and represents both the land and culture of British Columbia, and the west coast travel experience.

The Salish Heron is identical to the three Salish Class ferries built for BC Ferries in 2016, with capacity to carry at least 138 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew.

Photographs, video link and artist biography below.

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Media Contact:
BC Ferries, Media Relations
Victoria: (250) 978-1267

Customer Contact:
Victoria: (250) 410-1465
Toll-free: 1-888-BCFERRY (1-888-223-3779)

Note to newsrooms: For urgent media inquiries off-hours, call our off-hours line at (250) 516-7211.

Biography – Maynard Johnny Jr.

Maynard Johnny Jr. was born in 1973 in Campbell River, B.C., and is of Coast Salish descent on his father’s side from Penelakut Island and Kwakwaka’wakw on his mother’s side from Cape Mudge on Quadra Island. He is primarily a self-taught artist who has been studying and working since the age of seventeen.

Maynard’s signature use of bold, bright colours and graceful line work embodies the beauty and energy of contemporary Coast Salish art while drawing upon the rich history of Coast Salish two-dimensional design. He has been inspired by many North West Coast artists and for the past 27 years has focused on Coast Salish style and iconography in his work. Although Maynard is known primarily for his prints, he also works with wood carvings and engraving precious metals.

Maynard was featured in the Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design, New York, in 2005. In 2009, Maynard’s work adorned the cedar gift boxes that were given to special guests at the Canadian Juno Music Awards. His works can also be seen in film (Say it Ain’t So) and television series (Grey’s Anatomy).

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