Blog Post by Community School Coordinator Sarah Haxby
On June 24th BICS will host the unveiling of the BICS Welcome Pole, a carving that shares what symbolizes Bowen Island as a welcoming community. The original idea for the BICS Welcome Pole was conceived of by the artist Simon Daniel James, also known as Winadzi, as a legacy gift to the school. Winadzi is a carver, multi-media artist and a father of two children who attend BICS; he wanted to give every student the opportunity to learn to carve and to collaborate on the project from design through to completion.
The animals on the welcome pole symbolize and celebrate our connections to Bowen Island and represent how our community is welcoming, unique and inclusive. The animals selected by the students include a raven representing the trickster, storytellers and artists of Bowen Island; a killer whale jumping joyously, representing the health of our natural ecology and the orcas that have returned to the waters around Bowen Island; and a bear representing the animals and people that travel to and from the island. The bear is tightly holding a salmon, a precious and important food source that represents the cycle of life and our connections and relationships to nature and each other. The bear is standing on the roof of the community school representing shelter, a place of education and where the community gathers to be together. Under the roof is a loyal and brave wolf wearing an RCMP hat, representing service and our community’s first responders; an eagle representing a teacher, holding an educational book; and an Ariolimax columbianus, Pacific Banana Slug, which represents the unique spirit of Bowen Island’s community and our community’s desire to stay on the slow side and to appreciate ‘island time’. The wolf, slug and eagle are depicted as three animals which collectively reflect the community of Bowen Island. They are all peering over the edge of a canoe, riding over the waters of Howe Sound either traveling to, from, or around Bowen Island, or the canoe can be seen as Bowen Island, depending on your interpretation of the artwork; and the artist invites you to come up with your own interpretations and stories based on what you see in the Welcome Pole and its many characters.
Winadzi and his family are leading the unveiling ceremony and will be sharing song and dance, food as we formally recognize the carving and the many hours of work that went into it. The two-part unveiling event from 11:15am-12:15pm will be for special guests such as Xwalactun, a Squamish artist and carver who led the ceremony at the beginning of the project, Jada Harry, Temi’xw Spak’em, the School District Aboriginal Success Teacher who has helped to connect students to the project, BICS Student Council, and all the students and families who participated in the project and are connected to it. From 1:05-2:15 there will be a class gallery walk for all classes to have the opportunity to visit the completed carving after it has been unveiled.
The BICS Welcome Carving project has been highly collaborative and made possible thanks to the donation of the old growth cedar log from Squamish, the contribution of the concrete base and sculpture bracket and staff support from West Vancouver Schools, generous funding from an ArtStarts grant to pay for the artist’s time working with the students, a Bowen Island Municipality Innovation grant, the West Vancouver Foundation Compelling Opportunities Fund, the BICS PAC (Parent Advisory Council), CSA (Community School Association), Bowen Building Centre and many community volunteers, as well as the vision and generosity of the artist.
We are very grateful for and appreciative of the many people and organizations that have supported this extraordinary project that is a legacy artwork born of the vision of one person and supported by many. Every time I look at the Welcome Pole I will think of the over three hundred pairs of hands helped to carve the Welcome Pole, and how we are all connected to our environment and to each other.