Pop Culture meets Aboriginal Art Along the Kingsway Trail

Kingsway Trail
Artist: Sonny Assu

Starting September 28th, 2012 commuters along Kingsway may notice some new signage marking their urban treks to home, work and play.

As part of Vancouver’s 125th Anniversary, the City of Vancouver commissioned artist Sonny Assu to design a street marker to be installed along Kingsway from Main Street to Boundary Road. The signs mark Kingsway’s shared history as an aboriginal foot trail and wagon road. The artwork incorporates the artist’s signature style of Pop-Culture-meets-Aboriginal Art to make this history visible in our daily lives.

The marker is installed on both sides of Kingsway and mimics highway signs that identify the route, including a stylized maple leaf using coastal First Nations design elements. The project informs people of the ancient foot trail that connected the Fraser River and what later became New Westminster and False Creek and English Bay. The signs also acknowledge the early colonial history as a wagon road.

As an urban indigenous person calling Vancouver home for many years, I wanted to honour the First Peoples history and Musqueam, Squamish and Tsail-wututh Nations with my work…. In a project to acknowledge Vancouver’s 125 years, I recognized the inequality in that conception of history. Hidden in plain sight, it seems we forgot to acknowledge the first 9000 years.”          – Sonny Assu

The artwork was unveiled by Mayor Robertson at City Council as part of the celebration of National Aboriginal Day on June 21, 2012.

ABOVE and BELOW: Mayor Gregor Robertson and Glenn Alteen, Program Director for the Grunt Gallery unveil Sonny Assu’s work in Council Chamber beside the proclamation declaring National Aboriginal Day.

About the Artist

Sonny Assu grew up in North Delta, BC, away from his ancestral home in Cape Mudge and Kwakwaka’wakw culture. He graduated from Emily Carr University in 2002. In an exploration of his mixed ancestry, he works across disciplines and appropriates and transforms items of consumer and popular culture and First Nations iconography.

A solo exhibition, Sonny Assu: As Defined Within the Indian Act, was held at the Belkin Satellite Gallery in Vancouver in 2006. Assu’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including How Soon is Now? (Vancouver Art Gallery, 2009) and Beat Nation: Hip Hop as an Indigenous Culture (Grunt Gallery, 2009, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2011), as well as Comic Relief (National Gallery of Canada, 2008) and Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 (Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, 2005, and touring through 2009). His work is in a number of collections including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and Seattle Art Museum.


About the Program

In September 2010, the Public Art Program held an open call to artists to propose projects to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Vancouver. The opportunity was to commission new works for short-term and permanent installations in a range of media to mark time, record change, and identify unique geographic and civic spaces, characters or communities that have animated the city or are markers for its potential in the future.  One hundred projects were proposed; eight were shortlisted for development and six projects were commissioned.

Questions or images:

Public Art Program, City of Vancouver

2 thoughts on “Pop Culture meets Aboriginal Art Along the Kingsway Trail

  1. Pingback: Indigenous trail & wagon road | kele fleming

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