April 18 was a day of reverent celebration at Pictou United Church as three 4X6-foot art panels destined to be installed on the brick wall behind Spirit Glen’s water feature were unveiled to the congregation.
Created by renowned Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy and inspired by petroglyphs found throughout Mi’kma’ki, the panels depict Spirit Guides: a moose, an eagle in flight, and a whale to complement the diverse spirituality of the church’s contemplative garden and honour its place in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. Sunday’s worship marked the culmination of a three-year collaboration with Syliboy and graphic designer Mark Austin, with digital files rendered into the panels by Eastern Sign Print of Advocate Printing and Publishing, represented by Mark Holliday.
Despite his work being shown across Canada and the United States and from Europe to Japan, with his murals being a feature of the Stanfield International Airport as well as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, this is Syliboy’s first art installation in a place of worship. In his reflections shared with the congregation, Syliboy acknowledged this as a significant step in the long journey toward reconciliation. An artist statement accompanying the panels expresses his hope that “this visual story will take visitors in this peaceful place on new journeys of mind and soul.”
Tonya Francis and Crystal Denny of Pictou Landing First Nation performed The Honour Song and upon unveiling the panels were smudged by Katria Paul and Tonya Francis. On Earth Day Sunday, the art of creation was further celebrated in the choir’s offering of Song of the Land.
Sharing refreshments following worship, those gathered engaged in a question-and-answer opportunity with Syliboy, Austin and Holliday to learn more about the artworks and the process through which they were created.
Spirt Glen, located at the corner of Faulkland and James streets, welcomes all residents of and visitors to the Town of Pictou to rest, reflect, and restore.
Submitted by congregation member Ruth Mackay