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The project’s genesis began with the trio of grade 12 girls, who also compete with the Marlins swim team. They dreamed up the idea as part of a graduation project, approaching teacher and professional mural artist, Shannon Thiesen, to help make it a reality.
“After helping the girls grid and draw their design on the wall, we took to our separate sides (good timing given the social distancing protocols) and focused on painting our own half,” wrote Thiesen in an email.
The teens took the Marlin side, being emblematic of their years training in the pool, while Thiesen painted the salmon. Together, the mural represents the community and its natural beauty, and serves as a reminder of how the arts can connect communities and bring people through times of crisis.
Support from the city of Port Coquitlam came with the caveat that the project reflect the city’s natural environment. The salmon immediately jumped out at Thiesen, as it reflects the Coast Salish origins of the word Coquitlam: kʷikʷəƛ̓əm or “red fish up the river.”
As the COVID-19 crisis inflicts pain and financial hardship on people across the community, Thiesen points to nature's "silver lining” and how it's “recovering and reclaiming its power.”
With the design and painting of the project carried out during the current pandemic, Thiesen said she spent a lot of time reflecting on the meaning of her work.
“My hope is the healing trend we are currently seeing in our natural world will continue. The reduction of greenhouse gases and noise pollution, orcas returning to previously traversed waters, improved air quality due to a reduction in industry and traffic," she said.
"Hopefully [this] bring the sockeye back to the Coquitlam River.”
Read more of our COVID-19 coverage here.