First Nations Street Banners to Adorn YVR’s Roadways

For many visitors, Vancouver International Airport provides the first and last impression of British Columbia. The airport has long reflected the beauty of the province and its diverse landscape through unique architecture and design, as well as our world-renowned Northwest Coast First Nations art collection. This commitment to creating a unique sense of place at YVR inspired our first-ever street banner contest, announced in partnership withYVR Art Foundation earlier this year. 

B.C. artists of First Nations origin were invited to participate, and sixteen artists from across B.C. submitted original designs. Two winners were chosen: Valerie Malesku, a Haida artist from Queen Charlotte and Michelle Stoney, a Gitxsan artist from Hazelton.

Valerie Malesku is an extraordinary artist who has lived in Haida Gwaii for the past 40 years.  Valerie was adopted into the Haida nation and her art was inspired by many legendary Northwest Coast artists including Captain Gold, Robert Davidson, Reg Davidson and Bill Reid – whose iconic sculpture The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe resides in YVR’s International Terminal.  Valerie has worked with many traditional styles of art including carving, button blankets and jewellery.  Her banner design incorporates land, sea and sky with eagles in flight.  The eagles’ feathers are a variety of colours to represent different races and cultures.  Valerie’s work can be found in galleries around B.C. and has been displayed in New York.

Michelle Stoney became interested in art thanks to the influence of her grandfather, a master carver.  Michelle was first recognized by YVR for her artistic ability in 2009, when she won a scholarship from YVR Art Foundation.   She decided to pursue art full-time and was inspired to attend Emily Carr after taking a First Nations art class as an elective at the University of Northern B.C.  During her time at Emily Carr, Michelle learned how to meld contemporary art and new techniques with the traditional First Nations practices she had learned from her grandfather.  Oral history is an extremely important part of Northwest Coast culture, and Michelle based her banner design on the "weget" - a raven - a favourite character that can transform into anything.  In Michelle’s winning design, the weget is captured in the midst of its transformation into a plane.

Valerie and Michelle’s banners were unveiled at a ceremony at YVR on December 4.  Millions of passengers travelling through YVR each year will enjoy these outstanding tributes to Northwest Coast art and aviation. The banners will hang along Grant McConachie Way, the departures and arrivals ramps and curbs and throughout the parkade.

View all of the artist’s submissions to YVR’s Exploring Flight: Street Banner Contest, on the Art & Architecture section of our website.

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