Public Place : Sacred Space

CVAG Plaza 

PUBLIC PLACE : SACRED SPACE is a multi-year program that integrates themes of welcoming, gathering and healing through the incorporation of Indigenous place-naming, site installations, a full circle tea garden, exhibitions, cross-cultural sharing, performance, video screenings, workshops, gatherings and residencies. The undertaking was a collaboration between the Comox Valley Art Gallery, participating artists, curators, Elders, the K’ómoks First Nation community and the City of Courtenay.

Together, the components in this program are seen as a step toward reconciliation and recognition of the historic relationships the K’ómoks peoples have had with this Valley for thousands of years.

PLACE NAMING / Qwee-koos-ah-ool (Puntlege) and Me’łlun (K’ómoks)
The place-naming component of the project first engaged Andy Everson, First Nations Artist, K’ómoks Cultural Leader and Anthropologist, in 2017 to unearth the significance of the land upon which the CVAG plaza (and downtown core) has been constructed.  Andy Everson, K’ómoks cultural leaders, and four Heads of House – Kerry Frank, Allan Mitchell, Ernie Hardy Senior, and Wedlidi Speck, recognized the role of the gallery plaza as a centre-point within the City’s cultural core, its status as a place of welcoming, gathering, and healing, and its significance within K’ómoks culture and unceded territory.

Two names were put forward by the Heads of House as place-names for the gallery plaza:
Qwee-koos-ah-ool (Puntlege) and Me’łlun (K’ómoks). Elder Wedlidi Speck notes that using the two names or words together suggests a unity between the two peoples. It is a way to honor both. The Comox Valley Art Gallery is honoured to have been gifted this name. It is seen as an opportunity to develop the CVAG plaza space as a ‘calm space’ in which differences can be valued, and in which diversity is fostered through public meeting and celebration.

Welcoming & Unveiling Ceremony – October 27 2018
In 2018, Randy Frank and Karver Everson, under the mentorship and training of master carver Calvin Hunt, created and installed two Welcome Poles on the plaza of the Comox Valley Art Gallery in downtown Courtenay.

The poles are linked to The Guardian Pole Project an initiative of the K’ómoks Nation that will see the creation and installation of 20+poles over a ten year period. The poles identify the traditional K’ómoks Unceded territory, which spans the southern Great Bear Rainforest south to Denman and Hornby islands. In form and design, the poles signify the bounty of the land and stories, traditions and cultural practices of the K’ómoks people.

April 9, 2020 – ongoing
As a land-based practice the evolving full-circle tea garden replaces the urban decorative landscaping on the gallery’s plaza with traditional Indigenous food and medicine plants, designed under the guidance of Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Elder Barb Whyte.

The work invites contemplation and rooting to the land in which we live and receive nourishment.

“I give thanks to the Creator, Creator of our planets and our stars. I honor Mother Earth for all that she gives us, the oceans, rivers, mountains, and plains. I give thanks to the trees and the plants for supporting the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of our elders, mothers and fathers, and our children that walk upon her with respect for ourselves and respect for Mother Earth and all of my relations.” – Barb Whyte

April 5 2020 – ongoing
Situated outside the Comox Valley Art Gallery, this sculptural site installation by artist Andy Everson is part of the overarching program Public Place : Sacred Space plaza project. The work brings awareness to the traditional Bighouse architecture and the formline/fineline of the Kwakwakwala and Coast Salish imagery and represents the historical and current significance of the region as a place of territorial, environmental and cultural intersections.

ExhibitionMay 18 – June 29 2018
This convergent program looked at collaborative art practice through the concurrent exhibition of three bodies of work (Touching Earth Bodies, In Defiance, and In the Shadow of our own Dust) by Victoria-based artists Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde and Valerie Salez, and was supported by collaborative curator Toby Lawrence. This multi-media program explored the dynamics of connection to one another and the land, through ceremony, installation, photography, performances, a creative residency, and experiential learning through a public make art event. Guest curator Toby Lawrence (Kelowna/Gabriola Island) and Victoria-based artists Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde and Valerie Salez participated in a concurrent land-based creative residency related to he their individual and collaborative art practices.

Exhibition October 16 – November 12 2018
As witness, orator, community knowledge carrier, and oral genealogist, Kwakwaka’wakw artist
John Powell / Winidi, proposes Nump Ma Noche Gyai Yoo Lahss / We All Come From One Root. Recognizing the impact of colonization on First Nations identity, the artist/archivist/ witness welcomed, gathered and transformed stories, names, places and experiences as a means of creating space for healing traditional lands and people. The exhibition of an extensive body of work articulated the powerful interconnectedness of First Nations identities embedded within art and cultural practices, diversity, ceremony, and the everyday.

Nump Ma Noch Gyai Yoo Lahss was first co-curated for the Campbell River Museum (2016), by Liz Carter and Ken Blackburn. The project continued with an expanded iteration at CVAG, including local Kómoks First Nations connections as part of the presentation. George Littlechild was instrumental in this project since its inception.

ExhibitionSeptember 17 – December 2, 2018
This arts-based collaborative production was developed by CVAG together with School District 71 Indigenous Education Services. This responsive legacy project honoured the intent to promote reconciliation and healing embedded in two projects: Speaking to Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School and Project of Heart: Illuminating the Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in BC.

These arts-based presentations offer educators, students, and families of School District 71 the opportunity to examine the history and legacy of Indian Residential Schools in British Columbia. Emerging artist Jesse Everson created the concept drawings for the graphics used for the promotional materials and the silkscreened cushions used for seating during sharing circles and facilitated engagement associated with the project.

“The path to reconciliation can be a rough trail for some when we first become aware of the history of residential Schools in Canada. These exhibits touch our hearts and teach our minds to educate future generations in knowing this history and will help them to ensure this history is never repeated.”
– Anonymous


The Comox Valley Art Gallery is grateful to operate on the Unceded Traditional Territory of the K’ómoks First Nations.

The Comox Valley Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the SUPPORT of Canada Council for the Arts Engage and Sustain program + New Chapter program, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, The Kòmoks First Nation, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox, Comox Valley Regional District, City of Victoria, University of Victoria Legacy Art Gallery, North Island College, BC Gaming, Campbell River Museum, Royal BC Museum and Library and Archives Canada, Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, U’mista Cultural Centre, Project of Heart Canada,  BC Teacher’s Federation, BC Gaming. LOCAL BUSINESSES and COMMUNITY PARTNERS include: Phillipa Atwood Architect, Valley Prototyping & Custom Cutting, Industrial Plastic & Paints, ABC Printing & Signs, West Coast Home Theatres, Imperial Welding Ltd., McLoughlin Gardens Society, SD71 Print Shop, Sure Copy and Hitec Printing, Outlook Engineering and Landscape Architecture, Bruce Lewis Surveying, McEllhany Consultants.

We are especially grateful for the support of consulting Elders and Cultural Carriers, guest artists and curators, program participants and collaborators, gallery volunteers, donors and members.



This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.