Blanketing The City Part I: Granville Street Bridge

Title: Blanketing The City Part I - The Pillars of the Granville Street Bridge

Artist: Debra Sparrow - Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm


Partner: CMHC Granville Island

Event: Art Smash

Year: 2018

Details: This mural is painted on two cement pillars of the Granville Street Bridge near the Public Market on Granville Island. They wrap around the 20 ft diameter pillars and measure over 44 ft in height. The shapes and colours were adapted from existing weavings by Debra Sparrow, some of which currently hang as part of the International Airport’s standing collection.

The piece serves as a vibrant landmark to the incredible resurgence of Coast Salish weaving and culture, of which Debra is at the forefront. She hopes the pillars will remind people of the strength of First Nations people and the depth of their history. “We go back thousands and thousands of years, and we want Vancouver to celebrate that with us, not just 150 years” says Sparrow.

About the Blanketing the City Series:

Artist Debra Sparrow and Vancouver Mural Festival celebrate the resurgence of Coast Salish weaving in profoundly visible, public and accessible spaces across the city by transforming Coast Salish textile patterns into giant murals that will also incorporate contemporary design elements. This series is rooted in an emerging practice of cultural reclamation of the visual spaces of Vancouver for the Coast Salish people and is part of a process of creating new channels of transmission of indigenous knowledge across generations, cultures and communities.  

This project arose from conversations with Debra Sparrow who challenged the Vancouver Mural Festival to find more foundational ways to observe cultural protocol and acknowledge the visual culture of the people who have thrived in these lands for thousands of years and continue to create and evolve their culture on these unceded territories. The direct result of our ongoing conversations over the past year is the mural series: Blanketing the City, where VMF gives a central place in the festival to Coast Salish weaving traditions that are shared by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh Nations and many other Nations in the Pacific Northwest. With the installation of large scale murals made by Coast Salish weaving artists this series aims to contribute to the reversal of the systemic suppression of the visual culture of the local nations in the public spaces of Vancouver. 

We see Blanketing The City as a way to acknowledge the suppression of the Coast Salish culture while seizing an opportunity to celebrate its resilience and its re-emergence as a foundational and central visual form in our public spaces. 

Debra Sparrow in front of the completed pillars.

Debra Sparrow in front of the completed pillars.

Debra’s weavings like these ones that hang in YVR were inspirations for the design of the pillars.

Debra’s weavings like these ones that hang in YVR were inspirations for the design of the pillars.


About Debra Sparrow:

Acclaimed Musqueam weaver, artist and knowledge keeper Debra Sparrow is a leading figure in the revival of Musqueam Coast Salish weaving. With 30 years of experience, Debra creates art that embodies traditional Musqueam teachings while forging ahead and embracing contemporary design. She once said she wouldn’t stop until she saw the city of Vancouver swathed in Coast Salish patterns and she’s well on her way to achieving that goal with the cities largest installations of Musqueam art on the pillars Granville Street Bridge as well as on 8-stories of the old Biltmore Hotel. Sparrow likes that her murals spur conversation and bring awareness to Coast Salish artistry outside of institutions.

You will also find examples of her work in the Royal BC Museum, the Vancouver International Airport, and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. Born, raised and still residing in the Musqueam Village at the mouth of the Fraser River, Sparrow is a self-taught artist, who spent four or five months studying art at Capilano University in the late 1970s.


 
 


Vancouver Mural Festival’s Indigenous Programs supports artists and organizations in the creation of public art and workshops for youth. We believe Coast Salish and other Indigenous artists have the power to reshape urban spaces by reflecting their contemporary and traditional values, stories, experiences, and ideas in this lasting and tangible way. 

Vancity’s generous support enables us to better connect the stories of these programs with the public. Below you will find information in the form of videos, pictures, interviews, articles, and more.

Note: Our definition of Indigenous includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.