Howe Sound Secondary School staff kicked off the school year last week by dedicating the second phase of a sprucing-up of the school’s gymnasium.
In front of a full-school assembly marking the end of the first week of classes for 2013-’14, principal Dr. Christine Perkins, joined by drummers from the Squamish Nation, dedicated a set of murals created by artist Dean Lauzé on the facility’s walls, the culmination of a project that has been some two years in the making.
Back then, students — including most of this year’s Grade 12s — and the community were surveyed for their views on what constitutes a “Sounder,” the school’s mascot, Perkins said.
“After going through everything from pig to dog to whale and snake… most of you selected the black bear,” Perkins told the assembled students and staff.
Lauzé, who has created murals for dozens of other British Columbia schools, consulted books on Squamish history and with Joy McCullough, Squamish Nation director of education, and set about working on the murals last spring.
Of Lauzé, Perkins said, “I had seen his work before at other schools… and knew he would be able to take all the divergent opinions, and put something beautiful together. We told Dean we wanted to make our gym the best in the corridor.”
The result is a stunning depiction of the Sea to Sky Corridor landscape with majestic black bears as the main characters. Charlene Williams, Sea to Sky School District Aboriginal cultural worker, explained that to the Squamish people, the black bear represents both strength and generosity.
Superimposed over the landscapes are Coast Salish-style artistic representations of eagles, bears, thunderbirds and the like — depicted as though they’re formed by clouds being carried by the wind (Sqwxwúmesh, or Squamish, means “Mother of the Wind”). On the north wall is a mountainscape, meant to represent the Tantalus Range, Perkins said.
The upgrade project began last year with new dressing rooms. The most recent phase also included the addition of soundboards to improve the gym’s acoustics, Perkins said. The next phase will see the stage area get a new weight and exercise room as well the continuation of the Lauzé mural on the south wall. Work on the third and final phase is set to begin next April, she said.