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Coast Salish artist selected to create public art for New West's new civic facility

New civic facility planned to open in fall 2023
James Harry
James Harry has been commissioned to create a public artwork that will be located outside New Westminster's new aquatic and community centre.

A Vancouver-based artist who grew up in New Westminster will create public art for the future təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre.

James Harry has been commissioned to create a public artwork for the facility that will replace the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre. 

“This work is a symbol of the resurgence of Salish art and the reclamation of space,” Harry said in a city press release.

Harry’s concept was selected by a panel that included a member of the New Westminster public art advisory committee, a practising arts professional with knowledge of and interest in contemporary Coast Salish arts and culture, and a member of the təməsew̓txʷ Indigenous Advisory Panel.

“This is the most significant public art commission to date for New Westminster, and I’m thrilled that it has been awarded to a Coast Salish artist,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a news release. “Along with choosing an Indigenous name for the new facility, this is an important step in ensuring Indigenous voices and traditions are represented on these lands.”

Quyen Hoang, the city’s public and community art coordinator, said the installation will be located outside the south entrance to the building.

“The proposed artwork is a large-scale contemporary sculpture referencing traditional Coast Salish design motifs and the Glenbrook Ravine site,” she said.

According to the city, the name təməsew̓txʷ is the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word for sea otter house. It is the combination of two words: “təməs” – meaning sea otter; and “ew̓txʷ” – meaning house.

Through the City of New Westminster’s public art policy, funding from eligible construction projects provides an opportunity to engage artists in city building processes and add richness to the city’s urban spaces. For the new centre, a two-stage selection process was initiated for the public art opportunity: an open call for expressions of interest; and, an invitation to shortlisted artists to submit a concept proposal for site specific artworks, either stand-alone or integrated into the building or landscape elements.

“The total budget is $500,000 and includes artist fees and overhead costs, design and engineering costs, site preparation, fabrication, installation, insurance, travel, shipping and all other incidental expenses,” Hoang said in an email to the Record. “The public art budget is included in the over capital budget for təməsew̓txʷ.”

Harry (Nexw’Kalus-Xwalacktun), who was born in Vancouver and grew up in New Westminster, is of Squamish Nation (Swxwú7meshḵ) and European decent (Scottish, and German).

“James spent much of his childhood and early adolescence immersed in art,” said the press release. “He learned First Nations stories, form and design, and carving skills from his father, Xwalacktun (Rick Harry), a master carver of the Squamish Nation. Similarly, Jennifer Kleinsteuber, James’ mother and an accomplished painter, gave him hands-on experience with drawing and painting. He developed his own techniques and methodology, expanding on his father's work and beginning to formulate a contemporary approach to Indigenous art and practice.”

Harry obtained a bachelor of fine arts degree, with a major in visual arts, from Emily Carr University of Arts and Design in 2014.

“His studies focused on integrating traditional Coast Salish art forms with contemporary concepts and materials,” said the press release. “James is a recent recipient of the 2021 Fulmer Award recognizing his role in elevating First Nations Art in B.C.”

Work on the new aquatics and community centre is underway and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. 

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus


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