The Salish Sea sculpture adjacent to Oak Bay Marina speaks to Jocelyn Floyer. It harkens back to memories of her late son Russell Ney.
Floyer discovered the sculpture while lunching with daughter Tara Ney, who is also an Oak Bay council member.
“She so quickly got what this meant,” Ney says. “It just went deep into her soul what this piece of art was trying to do.”
Floyer always held a fascination with the First Nations of our province and as a youngster visited the museum. Then based east of the legislative buildings, it boasted a basement full of aboriginal items.
“I was just drawn, and I was the only person who went down there,” Floyer recalls. Frequent sitings in her James Bay neighbourhood of Emily Carr and her menagerie also strengthened that interest.
“They’re so connected to their environment, and that’s what this piece does,” Floyer says. “You become connected to the earth, the sky, the water.”
For Floyer, who now lives in Oak Bay, the Salish Sea sculpture by Coast Salish artist Chris Paul connects her to Russell, who died in 2004 of a heart attack. He was 38.
“[Salish Sea] is so him. He was so special. Every time I look at that [sculpture] he comes through,” she says.
Floyer adopted Russell at five months old, during the controversial “’60s scoop,” in which First Nations children were removed from their aboriginal homes. She’d had a miscarriage and simply “had the room.”
“He brought the First Nations energy with him, that connection to the earth,” Floyer says. “We were so lucky to have him.”
“He could sit in chaos and observe and just be present,” added sister Monique Ney.
Russell found his first family and reconnected with them eight years before his death.
“He did find his birth family too, and went back to visit traditional lands,” Monique said.
In Russell’s honour, Floyer donated $5,000 toward the bid to make the Salish Sea Oak Bay’s first publicly-owned piece of fine art.
“That sculpture is really like a metaphor for where we are moving forward with aFirst Nations,” said Barbara Adams, arts laureate for Oak Bay.
Salish Sea was originally installed as part of a program last summer where artists loaned works to display in Oak Bay.
It was the start of a vision for Adams, and the first piece of publicly owned art would kick off that vision.
She envisions an “art amble” of six art spaces linked by 20 standalone installations.
Earlier this year, Oak Bay council approved the siting where the $24,000 sculpture currently sits, adjacent to Oak Bay Marina, and establish a Public Art Fund within the reserve fund for donations and bequests designated to public art.
Stage 1 involved purchase and replacement of the temporary installation pad with an estimated $28,000 price tag.
Funding today is around $10,000. Stage 2 would include an arts space, featuring a performance area adjacent to the sculpture framed by bench boulders and the sidewalk curving around it with an expected $10,000 budget.
“We want to get Stage 1 done before the rains come,” Adams said. “This is the first fine art installation Oak Bay will own.”
Go online to oakbay.ca/parks-recreation/planned-giving/public-art/public-art-fund to learn more about how to fund Oak Bay public art.