New Brunswick

Colourful salmon art swimming into Saint John

Saint John will soon be taken over by several giant, colourful salmon. But don’t run through the streets screaming just yet, it’s just a public art installation.

Artists have been tasked with painting 10 identical salmon sculptures to be placed around the city.

Ten identical sculptures made out of fibreglass have been sent to local artists who have been painting them for a new public art installation. (Matthew Bingley/CBC )

Saint John will soon be taken over by several giant, colourful salmon.

But don't run through the streets screaming just yet, it's just a public art installation.

A partnership between the city's tourism agency and the provincial government is making way for 10 salmon sculptures.

They may be identical in size and shape, but artists from the region are adding their own designs to make the six-foot sculptures stand out.

Celebrating local artists 

Victoria Clarke is hoping the fish will attract visitors to the province, while celebrating local artists. The executive director of Discover Saint John said salmon were chosen because the St. John River is a corridor to the animal's spawning ground.

"So that inspired us," Clarke said.

"It's a realistic sculpture structure, but it's a playful theme."

In the next two weeks, the salmon will be placed around the city. Clarke said people will be encouraged to seek them out on a "salmon run." The exact locations for the sculptures are still being finalized, but landmarks like the City Market and the Imperial Theatre are safe bets.

How long they remain outside is also up in the air, according to Clarke.

"If people are getting a kick out of them, seeing snow fly on them, we'll leave them out a bit longer."

When the elements sour, Clarke said the salmon will be auctioned off. The proceeds from the sale, she said, would be split between the InterAction School for Performing Arts and the artists.

Artist Lisa-Ann Scichilone worked on her salmon for about 16 hours in Brunswick Square. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

So far, Lisa-Ann Scichilone has put more than 16 hours into painting her salmon. While she works inside a vacant store in Brunswick Square, she said several people have been peeking in to check on her progress.

"I can't wait myself to do the salmon run with my family and friends and see the beautiful creations that other people have created" said Lisa-Ann Scichilone.

It's that awareness Scichilone is hoping to capitalize on. Her creation shows the environmental difficulties salmon face in the province.

"Their lifecycle is really a struggle," she said

"It's a battle."

Before putting her brush to a palette, Scichilone researched the fish and said the warming waters and pollution they contend with opened her eyes.

"The more that I read, the more that you get concerned" she said, noting a lot of Canadian wildlife is facing similar issues.

While they may be cumbersome, Peggy Woolsey-Rivera said the fish are quite fun to paint on. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

While muscling her sculpture around in her Quispamsis studio, Peggy Woolsey-Rivera said it isn't the easiest canvas to work with. But the artist said working with the sculpture was exciting.

"It's a beautiful sculpture," she said.

"It really does capture a wonderful sense of movement of the salmon."

Woolsey-Rivera is also hoping her salmon will double as a teaching experience for those looking at it. Her salmon shows the fish's life cycle from eggs on one side of its tail, up to adulthood at the mouth, before continuing the cycle on its back.

Many of the fish won't even make it to adulthood, noted Woolsey-Rivera, so she was keen to focus its resilience.

"It is a very courageous journey that these incredible animals make and not many of them make it to the end," she said.


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.