A rendering of the proposed art installation. Courtesy of Michael Hepher.

Art installation proposed for Fernie’s Station Square

It will be a contemporary take on a historical event.

The City of Fernie could be getting an art installation that honours one of the most devastating events in its history; the great fire of 1908.

Local artists, Michael Hepher and Paul Reimer made their proposal to a crowd at The Arts Station last Friday evening.

As part of the Fernie Museum’s mandate for the art installation, which is being funded through a heritage grant, the work is set to reflect on the great fire of 1908, which destroyed most of the town.

“Our job as artists was to fill that role, to interpret what that means,” said Hepher, a printmaker and owner of Clawhammer Letterpress and Gallery in Fernie.

“Because we have had those catastrophic fire events in our history,” said Hepher, “those things have a legacy.”

The City of Fernie is one of the few municipalities in B.C. with a population of under 10,000 and a paid fire department.

The City of Fernie Public Art Evaluation Committee hosted the event as a public consultation for the proposed installation, which would become a focal point in the new Station Square redevelopment.

The piece will be funded by the Province, a BC Canada 150 Heritage Legacy Grant, as well as the Resort Municipality Initiative.

Hepher says he started the artistic process by looking at historical images of the aftermath from the fire.

He saw over again, burned, gutted brick buildings with exposed wood.

“I think that’s what’s burned in people’s minds,” said Hepher. “It seemed to me symbolic of the homes and lives that were gutted.”

He says from there, he built into his sketch the themes of Fernie’s resilience.

“I wanted to have something that implied the positive part,” he said, explaining that he wants the work to show how the city, time and again picks itself up after difficulty.

Hepher is working alonside Reimer, a local blacksmith and iron artist to create the piece from iron and wood.

While materials, exact size dimensions and colours are yet to be established, Hepher hopes the piece will have an interactive quality, by having seating areas or stones.

“Hopefully people will play a role in interacting with it,” said Hepher, “What I hope will bring more humanity to it.”

Feedback on the project will be accepted until Jan. 4, by emailing a feedback form available of the City of Fernie website to cityhall@fernie.ca

READ MORE: Local resident writes in, opposing art installation proposal

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