Artist marks a central Musqueam gathering place at UBC transit hub

By Carolyn Ali

Musqueam artist Brett Sparrow with his artwork on the UBC Vancouver campus
Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow with his cast bronze installation at the UBC Bus Exchange. Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC Brand & Marketing

Brent Sparrow’s ʔəlqsən (Point Grey) installation welcomes commuters to this significant point of land

Like salmon returning to their traditional spawning grounds, students return every fall to the UBC Bus Exchange, the hub of the Vancouver campus.

While that cycle has been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, campus activity will eventually return to its natural rhythm. And when it does, Brent Sparrow’s new art installation — featuring salmon, eagles, and thunderbirds — will be waiting.

Collectively known as ʔəlqsən (Point Grey), the 10 cast bronze pieces created by the Musqueam artist were recently installed on concrete pillars lining the walkway separating the UBC Bus Exchange from the new MacInnes Field.

“People will walk back and forth along this route, which I liken to salmon making the journey from the spawning grounds to sea and back.”

Brent Sparrow

In his artist’s statement, Sparrow explains the significance of the installation and its location. Here’s a closer look.

Musqueam artist Brett Sparrow carves artwork in his workshop

UBC’s Vancouver campus is located within the traditional, ancestral and unceded lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam people. Sparrow’s cast bronze pieces mark a significant point of land within Musqueam territory.

“The Musqueam gathering place that originally sat on the plateau away from the bluffs is no different from the present-day community, a central hub that most paths led to and away from.”

Brett Sparrow
Musqueam artist Brett Sparrow carves ʔəlqsən in his workshop
Photo: Jamil Rhajiak/UBC Brand & Marketing

“ʔəlqsən (Point Grey) is known to my ancestors as the Battleground of the West Wind, a natural landmark dividing the Fraser River estuary from Burrard Inlet,” says Sparrow.

Sparrow calls the Point Grey peninsula a welcoming gateway and a beacon of positivity.

Sparrow carved the pieces from wood and cast them in bronze. Trained as a welder, he apprenticed and carved alongside his mother, master carver Susan A. Point, and master carver John Livingston.

“These vertical and linear pieces symbolize many paths, many directions, many journeys,” Sparrow notes about the design. “Paths used for thousands of years by Musqueam peoples, are still in use today by many thousands of people. This place is a way of life.”

Musqueam artist Brett Sparrow with the bronze cast of his artwork on the UBC Vancouver campus
The finished work near the UBC Bus Exchange. Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC Brand & Marketing

“Eagles, salmon and thunderbirds, together, are uplifting and inspiring: symbols of protection and enlightenment,” says Sparrow. “The imagery is full of symbolism… It suggests that learners come to the university where they grow into messengers, seekers and travellers.”

“The Salmon symbolizes instinct, determination and persistence,” says Sparrow. “It is also symbolic of dependability and renewal representing the provider of life.”

Learn more about Brent Sparrow’s art

Carolyn Ali is a writer for UBC’s Brand and Marketing.
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