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Coquitlam 125 salmon now in artists' hands

A dozen artists are now hand painting the iconic city symbol for the 125th anniversary celebrations; the public art work pieces will be unveiled July 23 and 24.
Coquitlam's Maria Centola will see her completed salmon sculpture in Town Centre Park this summer. The 23-year-old Capilano University graduate was one of 12 artists picked to hand paint the iconic symbol as part of the city's 125th anniversary celebrations.

Maria Centola is still on Cloud 9.

A few weeks back, the young Coquitlam woman got a phone call from Lynda Baker, the city's cultural and community events co-ordinator, to congratulate her as one of a dozen artists selected to hand paint a salmon sculpture for the city's 125th year.

Last week, the city brought a truck up to her Westwood Plateau home to deliver of the smiling 6' tall, 6' wide fish. And now, the giant fibreglass canvas is in her garage, covered in drawings of Town Centre Park before the first acrylics go on this weekend. "It's a dream come true," Centola said, adding, "I'm really excited to see how everyone interprets it."

Centola's salmon, which will be unveiled at the Kaleidoscope arts festival at Town Centre Park on July 23 and 24, the Coquitlam 125 signature event, will be a blend of blues and greens with images of the bustling City Centre. She has the Evergreen Line zooming through high rises and ending near Lafarge Lake; there's a runner on the Percy Perry Stadium track, a girl on a bike and the amphitheatre with the mountains in the distance.

Having a piece of public art in such a public spot "is an amazing opportunity. It makes it very special this is in my hometown, the place where I grew up," said Centola, who graduated from the IDEA School of Design program at Capilano University last month.

Joan McCauley, who is heading up the Coquitlam 125 celebrations, said 41 artists applied to paint a salmon sculpture before the March 15 deadline. A sub-committee juried each submission based on the story/concept, artistic merit and the artist's past work.

"We chose to lead a blind adjudication process to eliminate any potential conflict of interest or favouritism in the event that one of the applicants was known to the selection committee," McCauley said. "This process was very successful and allowed for a level playing field for all artists."

Five winners are from the Tri-Cities while seven live around Metro Vancouver. And each of their designs varies in style from traditional to contemporary — conveying a narrative and reflecting on the city's diversity, history and beauty, said McCauley, who is also the executive director of Place des Arts.

Besides Centola's sculpture at Town Centre Park, which has already been sponsored by Square Nine Developments, the other salmon will be located at high-pedestrian sites around the city:

• Mackin Park: Wilfrido Limvalencia and Jolayne Devente

• Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex: Elvira DS

• Coquitlam Crunch: Jenna Mortemore

• Blue Mountain Park: Dennis Creighton

• Coquitlam Public Library (Poirier branch): Iman Baradaran Hashemi

• City hall: Shohre Shirazi

• Victoria Park: Cory Douglas

• Cottonwood Park: Elham Sarvi

• Como Lake Park: Flavia Chan

• and Mundy Park: April Lacheur

Common themes include the city's natural environment, cultural diversity and its Fraser Mills past. Kwikwetlem First Nation also plays a prominent role.

"I feel my proposed design fits well with the vision for the 125th anniversary of Coquitlam because it includes both stories told and the positive energy and light for stories to be created," Lacheur said. "The design is bright, colourful, happy and hopeful much like the future of Coquitlam."

And Wilfrido Limvalencia, a Richmond resident whose past public art works have included the Spirit Bears in the City and the Terracotta Warriors — both fundraising projects for the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities — said his "Landmarks" salmon "is a great opportunity for me to create and showcase a unique piece of artwork that honours the community's rich history and heritage."

Meanwhile, Jenna Mortemore gave kudos to Squamish Nation artist Jody Broomfield for creating the salmon canvas. She recalled seeing the Adams River while moving from Edmonton to the coast two years ago; it was the first time she had viewed a salmon run.

"Standing 1,000 km from the ocean, watching the water flow in opposition to their travel, the sheer resiliency and determination of the salmon hit home with me," she said, "and I think that Jody really managed to capture this feeling."





My vision for the sculpture involves the importance of Fraser Mills. I will be using a highly stylized, slightly First Nations design to make the salmon look like it has abstracted cedar bark for scales: Jolayne Devente

Living in Coquitlam over 10 years as an artist and art instructor, I always look for some opportunity to inspire people around me through my art. It is an honour to be part of the Coquitlam 125 anniversary celebration and a perfect way to share part of my spirit with the community that I live in: Elham Sarvi

I am so excited to be part of this big and memorable event. I have lived in Coquitlam for 17 years and I have witnessed this community's achievements and struggles. I have seen new neighbourhoods rising from different parts of this town. I have seen people with different skin colours and ethnic backgrounds, have chosen Coquitlam as their home and the place to raise the next generation of Canadians: Shohre Shirazi

My design signifies how nature is the foundation on which communities like Coquitlam are built. Images of trees, herons and salmon are interlaced throughout the sculpture acknowledging the relationship the natural and manufactured environments have had on the past 125 years: Dennis Creighton

I applied to the salmon project because I have never worked with such a large sculpture and saw this platform as a fun challenge. I work with vinyl toys in my own art practice so I view the salmon sculpture as a gigantic toy, ready to be customized: Flavia Chan



Four organizations are now on board to sponsor a salmon 125 sculpture: Onni Group, Marcon Group of Companies, Square Nine Developments Inc and the Austin Heights BIA.

To sponsor a public art work, visit