Art for Sea to Sky

Art for Sea to Sky: Exploring the Science, Nature and Beauty of Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound is a solo art exhibition featuring new works by Bowen Island artist Di. The 13 paintings take viewers on a journey of remarkable Howe Sound- a glacial fjord just north of Vancouver’s metropolis and the traditional territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh peoples. The region has witnessed dramatic environmental changes in the past 100 years: pollutants from two pulp mills and a copper mine devastated the Sound’s ecology. But recovery has begun and the path forward sends a message of hope for the future. From deep sea glass sponge reefs to pods of orca and the alpine lakes of Garibaldi, viewers are challenged to see beyond Atl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound’s scenic vistas and explore a little more about what makes this a truly special place.

Uncharted Waters: Art for Sea to Sky film by Molly Dennis

Welcome to Art for Sea to Sky

Looking north from the ferry to Bowen Island/Nex̱wlélex̱m it is easy to see that Howe Sound is a remarkable place. Called Átl'ka7tsem by the Squamish/Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people, whose traditional territory has been these lands since time immemorial, it is western Canada’s southernmost fjord. Nicknamed ‘Sea to Sky’ the watershed encompasses an area from Bowen Island/Nex̱wlélex̱m in the south all the way to the mountain peaks of Garibaldi/Nch’ḵay̓ in the north.


The region was and still is being formed by collision of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates- large pieces of the Earth’s crust that slide around on top of the molten mantle. Buckling of the crust at this collision zone caused uplift of metamorphic rock and created the mountain peaks that we see along the Sea to Sky corridor today. Volcanic activity in areas such as Garibaldi/Nch’ḵay̓ further added to the unique geological formations. However this is only a part of the story of how the region was formed.

As recently as 10,000 years ago the world was in an ice age. North America was covered by a sheet of ice that stretched as far south as Washington State. The glacier that filled Howe Sound was up to 2 kilometers thick and comprised of solid chunks of ice and rock that moved at speeds of anywhere between 0.5 meters per year to 30 meters per day. The grinding effect of this glacial movement shaped islands, mountainsides and valleys. It is the combination of fire and ice that laid the foundation for Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound’s unique and remarkable landscape.


First Nations Connections

Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound is the traditional territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Peoples. Their lives and cultural traditions have been embedded in this place for thousands of years. Artifacts from the Stá7mes/Stawamus settlement site date to over 3,500 years ago, with sites throughout the Salish Sea upwards of 7,000 years old.

The language Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim is incredibly connected to place. Many of their words directly relate to water. For example, directions are in reference to travelling on water: upstream, downstream, toward

land, etc. The name ‘Átl'ka7tsem’ refers to paddling up the Sound towards Squamish. The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people teach legends of many places throughout the Sound, such as the legend of Garibaldi/Nch’ḵay̓. The name Nch’ḵay̓ means ‘dirty water’ or ‘grimy one’, and points to the volcanic dust and sediments that wash into the Cheekeye River. During a great flood in the distant past Sḵwx̱wú7mesh ancestors tied up canoes using cedar ropes to the peaks of Nch’ḵay̓. Here they waited out the flood, which was viewed as a warning that people had fallen out of natural rhythm with the land and the earth.


Throughout this exhibition you will find traditional Sḵwx̱wú7mesh names for places and wildlife. In order to acknowledge the Indigenous connection, sacred landmarks and ancestral knowledge sharing that permeates every corner of the traditional unceded Sḵwx̱wú7mesh territory of Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound.

Special thank you to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation and the Howe Sound/ Átl'ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide for sharing stories and names throughout this exhibit.

Howe Sound/Átl'ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide

A portion of proceeds from Art for Sea to Sky sales will benefit the Howe Sound/Átl'ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide. Projects include ecosystem monitoring, community collaboration, and a comprehensive online interactive map of Howe Sound available on their website. A sample of the map is hanging in this exhibition. Check out the online version!