The Smithers District Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Centre (VIC) has received a much overdue facelift.
Local artist Emerenne Saefkow was tasked with depicting a snapshot of life in the Bulkley Valley.
“That was quite a hefty job, given that Smithers is so diverse and has so many things that make it Smithers, and so we went the abstract way and tried to represent as much as possible,” Saefkow said.
The result is a multi-panel mural on the exterior wall of the building featuring symbols of the business community and culture of the area.
Although completed just last week, Chamber manager Sheena Miller said it is already making a difference for the town.
“I’m so excited and pleased to see something like this project that’s so inspiring and community-oriented to come together after five months of hard work on COVID projects and files,” she said. “We all knew this building and Central Park needed a bit of an uplift and some inspiring energy behind it. So, to come to work now and see this incredible mural, it just makes you happy.”
Miller said the project would not have been possible without the generous support of Chamber members including Indigenous artist Roy Henry Vickers.
In wanting to depict Smithers, we also wanted to depict the First Nations community of Smithers and it wasn’t really my place to do that, I felt, so we got Roy Henry Vickers to design a few squares,” said Saefkow.
“It’s been quite an interesting and exciting opportunity to work with someone of such great renown and esteem and such an established artist.”
Interestingly Saefkow’s father Hans Saefkow designed and painted the mural on the other side of Hwy 16 on the side of the Subway building.
“It’s such an honour to have those generational legacies and to have it be in looking distance, or shouting distance is pretty cool,” she said.
While the mural is done, the revamping of the Visitor Centre is not. More changes include the installation of two 900-lb concrete salmon by the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club (BVGC).
Brian Atherton, former president of BVGC, is creating the sculptures using the same Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) molds that produced the ones on the waterfront in Hazelton. He said he has poured eight of them. In addition to the VIC, two will go to DFO, two to the gun range and two are going to private owners.
Prior to being the Chamber and visitor centre, the building housed a health clinic.