Skip to content

First Nations mosaic brings 'River of Reconciliation' to Port Coquitlam art students

Riverside Secondary used Kurtis Johnson's digital painting to recreate a mosaic. An opening reception for the Imaginings IV exhibit is on Friday to coincide with May Days in Port Coquitlam.

A digital painting of the Coquitlam River enlarged and split into tiles for a school art project is now up in downtown Port Coquitlam.

The "River of Reconciliation" mosaic by senior art students at Riverside Secondary is part of the Imaginings IV exhibit that will hang in the Michael Wright Art Gallery at Leigh Square until June 9.

About two dozen Riverside students replicated Kurtis Johnson’s image on their chosen piece, then added symbols to describe how they are personally making an effort with reconciliation, while occupying First Nations’ ancestral and unceded territory.

As part of the project, they studied the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

For Grade 11 student Ellie Kwak, she played around with techniques in painting and drawing on her tile, while George Plesu, also Grade 11, added peas in pods, as well as linking hands between the Indigenous and settlers.

"I wanted to focus more on the positive aspects of reconciliation," he told the Tri-City News on Monday (May 2).

Plesu, who took art class to help with his future career in architecture, said the mosaic project was challenging for the students as most had never created a large-scale installation.

The idea to bring in the work by Johnson, a New Westminster resident of First Nations descent, came from the husband of fine arts/textiles teacher AJ Vittie.

Johnson told the Tri-City News he loves the results and hopes to do more artistic collaborations.

"This mural is an opportunity to learn from our community, to pause and reflect on the meaning of truth and reconciliation. I am proud the city is hosting this mural from our Riverside Secondary School students," said Mayor Brad West.

"Its commitment to reconciliation — creating opportunities by learning to build a new future together."

The mosaic was funded by the Port Coquitlam Community Foundation’s Theatre Society Legacy Fund Arts Grants.

The opening reception for Imaginings IV, as well as Cracking the Egg (city hall gallery) is on Friday (May 6) from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Michael Wright Art Gallery in Leigh Square.

For more information, you can visit the City of Port Coquitlam's website.