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First Nations art flies high at airport

Valerie Malesku (left) from Queen Charlotte City and Michelle Stoney from Hazelton at Vancouver International Airport for the unveiling of street banners they designed.  -
Valerie Malesku (left) from Queen Charlotte City and Michelle Stoney from Hazelton at Vancouver International Airport for the unveiling of street banners they designed.
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Artwork that offers a tribute to B.C.’s First Nations is now flying high at Sea Island’s airport.

Artists Valerie Malesku and Michelle Stoney designed a set of street banners for the Vancouver Airport Authority.

Their artwork is now featured on 36 banners hanging along Grant McConachie Way, the airport’s departures and arrivals ramps and throughout airport parkade.

Malesku, from Queen Charlotte City, and Michelle Stoney, from Hazelton, won the airport’s inaugural street banner contest celebrating First Nations art in B.C.

“The Airport Authority and YVR Art Foundation’s quest to capture our province’s unique sense of place and cultural heritage was reflected in this contest,” said Anne Murray, the airport’s vice-president of community and environmental affairs, in a statement.

Malesku is of Cree ancestry and has lived in Haida Gwaii for the past 40 years. Her banner design incorporates land, sea, sky and eagles in flight. She draws inspiration from many coastal artists and works in many traditional styles, such as carving, button blankets and jewelry.

Stoney is of Gitxsan ancestry and became interested in art through her grandfather who is a master carver. Her design is of a raven transforming into an airplane. The artist has studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, where she learned how to mix contemporary art and new techniques with traditional First Nations art she learned from her grandfather.

Both artists were recognized for their designs at an airport ceremony on Dec. 4.

First Nations artists from across B.C. were eligible to enter the street banner contest, which recognizes the talent of aboriginal artists and reflect the province’s cultural heritage

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