Quarter-note seedlings sprout from lines along the music staff. Vines and flowers dance across the canvas through green, yellow and red circles of light.
Roots of Resilience, a new mural commissioned by the Don Wright Faculty of Music, symbolizes how Western music students have persevered and blossomed throughout a trying pandemic year.
The mural, unveiled at a virtual ceremony Tuesday, was created by award-winning London artist Hawlii Pichette, a Mushkego Cree (Treaty 9) painter and illustrator who weaves Indigenous themes and symbolism through her work.
In talking with students early in the process, Pichette was struck by their commitment to music-making through a year of ever-changing rules and protocols.
After one student said she missed the crowds waiting for the traffic lights to turn green near the music building, Pichette knew she had found a symbol that represented how students have thrived even with the stop-and-go limitations of different pandemic ‘zones’.
She inverted the traditional traffic light for a reason: “I wanted the green light to be at the top. I wanted it to be like we were rising to green, with hope, from the red.”
Amber Proulx, president of the Faculty of Music Students’ Council, said the mural’s title rose to the top of students’ name suggestions. “Roots of Resilience means always looking to your roots, how you came to be here, the support you have to stand tall like a tree,” Proulx said.
“We are resilient, waiting for the light to change back to green so that we can once again – and some of us for the first time – enjoy everything that makes our Faculty and community unique and strong.”
Lecturer and voice division co-ordinator Torin Chiles said the idea came to him early one morning last September as he pondered ways to honour the community’s strength during a tough time. “It occurred to me that public art would be the just the perfect way to commemorate our struggles this year.”
He approached Pichette because he knew of her other evocative and memorable work. “I just trusted that she would come up with something wonderful, and she really has.”
Western Music is a rarity among its Canadian peers in that it found ways to keep making music in person throughout most of the past school year, although there were no live, in-person public concerts.
“Music is part of who we are. It’s in our DNA, in our willingness to breathe and to live,” said music dean Betty Anne Younker.
“That we’ve been able to move through each of the zones’ challenges speaks to the larger community of Western and the support we’ve had from administration, as well as the willingness for our faculty, staff and students to imagine what can be done,” Younker said.
When students return to class, they will find Roots of Resilience in the lobby of the music building, near Von Kuster Hall concert venue.