Centennial Square Parkade Stairwell Public Art

Infusing Spirit Mural Series

Four murals featuring contemporary Canadian and First Nations imagery now enhance the stairwell at Centennial Square Parkade. Created by a team of three professional artists and three local youth, the Infusing Spirit mural series is part of the City’s Art on Parkades initiative, designed to improve the parking experience downtown.

Local artists Joanne Thomson, Jennifer Johnson, and Beth Threlfall were selected for their proposal in September 2015 to collaborate with youth to create a series of murals to beautify a City parkade. Appointed by the Victoria Youth Council, the three young artists included Jody DeSchutter, Owen Anthony Parnell and GaHwi Woo.

Painted with acrylic on birch wood, the four murals encompass three themes: the four elements – earth, fire water and air; the four views of Victoria – parks, city, harbour, skyline; and the four “vertical slices of wild” – underwater, shoreline, forest and sky.

The artworks symbolize “Infusing Spirits”, representing Victoria’s overlapping cultures and the importance of spirits who watch over us in our visible and invisible lives. The seawolf and salmon embody wildlife and the surrounding waters, while open hands welcome all people to the land of the camas. The branches of the Garry oak weave the connection of history and multicultural threads, and the two-spirited thunderbird crowns the mural, protecting the interconnectedness of families.

Before installation, the artworks were blessed during a private Kwakiutl ceremony with First Nations Elders and Mayor Lisa Helps in attendance. 

About the Artist Team

Joanne Thomson
Joanne Thomson is a full-time visual artist specializing in watercolour for illustration and fine art. She is a full member in the Gage Collective Gallery in Oak Bay and had a Recovery themed exhibition in July titled, The Many Faces of Silence. Thomson’s illustrative work ranges from the flora and fauna of local ecosystems to a textbook for personal support workers about providing palliative care. In recent years, she has designed and facilitated community murals for Roger’s Elementary, Pacifica Housing, Cedars Housing, and collaborated on the George Jay Elementary Mural.  An excellent instructor, Thomson holds a Masters degree in Adult Education and is active in the community as an artist advocate, mentor and facilitator.

Jennifer Johnson
Jennifer Johnson is a First Nation Kwakuitl artist with mixed ancestry. She specializes in traditional native art forms which include drawing and designing original pieces; most designs have been shared through her family history. Her work includes a community mural and shawls for the play the Flood for George Jay School at the Belfry Theatre. Some of her specialties are drawing, button blankets, paintings, dream catchers, and handmade moccasins. Trained in the arts by mentors, elders, and the University of Victoria, Johnson’s passion is to share her art through traditional designs with integrated contemporary art forms.

Beth Threlfall
Beth Threlfall’s creativity is rooted in colour, design and community. Best known for her Fernwood “Soul Pole” project, she created her first “soul pole” in 2008, which then led to the annual Pole Painting Day; now, hundreds of painted telephone poles across Victoria generate a feeling of welcoming and beauty. Her most recent community art project was the creation of Victoria’s first street mandala but, as a mother of two, Threlfall has also worked on many projects with the students of George Jay Elementary, from garden boxes and a walking labyrinth, to collaborating on a large First Nation-inspired mural.

Youth Engagement

Working with the City of Victoria Youth Council, the City and the artist team engaged with three youth to participate in this project. Youth engagement in the arts expands creativity, teaches diversity and builds community. The project provided an opportunity for the City of Victoria to connect young people with professional artists as participants in the artistic process for public display. The arts offer an opportunity to engage in collective, collaborative activities, and enable youth and the community to become more publicly involved with their city and civic life.

Youth Artists

Jody DeSchutter
Jody DeSchutter is 23 years old and is currently completing the final semester of an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts and minoring in Art History at the University of Victoria. She has worked at both the Lake Country Art Gallery and the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan which have solidified her immersion ignited a love and passion for sharing and collaborating with the community. She is involved in a number of immersive art initiatives in Lake Country including an independently proposed and approved series of viewer-centered take art/leave art handcrafted benches as well as involvement in an upcoming installation art event.

Owen Anthony Parnell
Owen is a 23 year old Cree Metis artist and graduate of the Camosun College two-year intensive Visual Arts Program, in which he was versed in a broad range of mediums and approaches to the creative process. He received scholarships to study aboriginal art for a summer at Emily Carr University of Art and Design (2010), and another scholarship to study mixed media and acrylics at Metchosin International Summer School of Art (2013). Owen has shown work with Open Space's Indigenous Youth Artist Showcase (2014), with PedalBox during the Integrate Arts Festival (2014) and was part of the youth team that created the Rock Bay Mural (2014). I apprenticed with the Coast Salish carver, Curtis Christie, and studied Native Art in High School with Alex Clark.

GaHwi Woo
GaHwi Woo is a Grade 12 student attending Mount Douglas Secondary. Art has always been a profound part in her life from sketching to acrylic painting. Though some may regard art as an expensive decoration, she views art as a bridge between society and herself. It is through painting that allows her to express ideas and opinions that are unexplainable through words. GaHwi Woo won first place in the Writing and Arts Challenge War of 1812, and second place in B.C./Yukon Legion Coloured Poster Contest. She has been painting for eight years and has participated in the City of Victoria’s Youth Council’s Art Mentorship Program and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s Open Door Access.

Selection Process

The Centennial Square Art on Parkade project was a one-stage competition, juried by a selection panel of five individuals, consisting of a visual art instructor, an urban design professional, a local artist/curator, a member of the Art in Public Places Committee, and a member of the Victoria Youth Council.

Submission Guidelines

This competition was open to artists and artist teams who are residents of the Capital Region, which includes the Gulf Islands.

The competition closed on Monday, July 27, 2015 at 4:30 p.m.

Art in Public Places Policy

The City's Art in Public Places Policy encourages the creation of new works of art for the enhancement of public spaces. The purpose of the policy is to:

  • Increase the livability and artistic richness of the municipality by making art a permanent part of our environment and a legacy for future generations.
  • Provide opportunities for the public to increase their awareness, appreciation, knowledge and education of public art.
  • Develop a sense of place, community pride and identity through the creation of new works.
  • Integrate art and artists into a variety of public settings.
  • Engender art that inspires people and is an expression of the time.
  • Enhance the attractiveness of the City, and promote cultural tourism.
  • Provide opportunities for artists at all levels and career stages.

Learn more about the City's Art in Public Places Policy.