Public art is powerful in so many ways. Besides beautifying and brightening up a space, and providing a canvas for artists to create and share their work, it’s a tool for civic engagement that connects citizens to their communities (and each other), sparks conversations, raises awareness about important issues, and helps put a place in context by sharing its past, present and future.
Located less than 2km from downtown Corner Brook, the community of Crow Gulch was settled in the 1920s by a primarily Mi’kmaq/French population, many of whom came to the area seeking work opportunities at the local pulp and paper mill and surrounding area. And while former residents recall happy memories among the close-knit community, they also endured racism, poverty and neglect, as municipal services like power, water, sewer, fire prevention and garbage collection were never connected. In the late 1960s, the community was demolished and about 45 families were pressured to relocate.
Today, near where Crow Gulch once stood, near the pulp and paper mill, stands a bright and beautiful billboard-sized mural which pays homage to the lost community and the strength and resilience of its former residents. Featuring brightly coloured houses and double curve designs with two large crows at the forefront (symbolizing the spiritual presence of their ancestors), the mural is a beautiful tribute that ensures Crow Gulch will never be forgotten.
The mural, say Bennett and Gosse in a joint statement, is “an artistic expression of the spirit that lived and still thrives on this land, and recognition of the community that once stood here, a home to over 45 families.”
“We would like to acknowledge all the artists, writers, residents, and storytellers who have and continue to tell the important stories and truth of this place. The mural is rooted in Mi’kmaq visual culture which can be found within both of our individual artistic practices. Pulling on ancestral art forms such as quillwork, basketry, petroglyphs and hieroglyphs our individual styles build upon one another to depict the rich and vibrant Mi’kmaq culture of Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland).”
The mural, which was officially unveiled this past August, was commissioned by the City of Corner Brook under the Downtown Urban Design Action Plan. The total cost of the project was $34,101 with contributions from the City, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Bennett and Gosse worked with IOTA Studios for the management of the artwork.
Information panels including more details on the mural and the community of Crow Gulch will also be installed at the site. There are also four picnic tables featuring the colours of the Medicine Wheel, where people can take a rest and soak in the beauty of the artwork and surrounding area.
“It is important to celebrate and recognize the rich history of Crow Gulch. As a City, we are moving along the path of reconciliation with our Indigenous community. This is another important milestone. This commission is also a bold step toward enriching our public spaces with quality artwork. Public art such as this inspires conversation, fosters understanding within our community and makes our City more beautiful,” says Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons in a release issued by the City.
Jordan Bennett and Marcus Gosse are no strangers to the local, national and international arts scene. Over the past decade, Bennett has participated in over 75 group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally, and has received several awards and honours, which includes being long listed for the 2015 and 2016 Sobey Art Award, and shortlisted for the 2018 Awards. He was a long list winner in 2020. Also in 2020, he won the Lieutenant General NS Masterworks Award. Bennett is from Stephenville Crossing and is currently based in Terence Bay, Nova Scotia. (Click here to learn more about Jordan and see more of his work.)
Marcus Gosse is from Stephenville and is a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band. Since 2014, The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery has acquired three of his paintings and in 2017, he was invited to participate in and exhibit 12 pieces in the Canada 150 Art Show at the Macaya Gallery in Miami, Florida. Gosse has participated in several art shows in Atlantic Canada, and his pieces have been sold to art collectors around the world. He is known for incorporating the ancient Mi’kmaq Star, Mi’kmaq Petroglyphs, Hieroglyphs, and various double curve designs into his work. (Click here to learn more about Marcus and view more of his work.)