The Reach Gallery Museum has received the Award for Excellence in Community Engagement from the BC Museums Association (BCMA).
The Reach was recognized in a ceremony on Oct. 28 for its recent children’s book Semá:th X̱ó:tsa Sts’ólemeqwelh Sx̱ó:tsa (Semá:th X̱ó:tsa: Great-Gramma’s Lake) and the public programs that it inspired.
The provincial award recognizes “a recent outstanding success in community engagement, as demonstrated by ongoing participation of new audiences, new partnerships with community organizations, and supporting needs of the community.”
The book is a collaborative project co-authored by Thetáx Chris Silver of Semá:th First Nation and Xémontélót Carrielynn Victor of Cheam First Nation, with Kris Foulds and Laura Schneider of The Reach.
The story unfolds as a conversation between a grandmother and her grandson as she describes ecological, cultural, and spiritual abundance that Sumas Lake provided before it was drained 100 years ago.
Since its launch in November 2020, the children’s book has spawned a number of public programs and inspired a number of community partnerships.
An exhibition hosted at The Reach from September 2020 to May 2021 was accompanied by school tours and educational resources for teachers in the Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack school districts.
The public performance Luminous Waters that took place at Tradex this summer is inspired by the book and resulted in a performance of larger-than-life illuminated puppets animated by UFV theatre students.
More recently, a number of community partners – including Literacy Matters Abbotsford, the Clearbrook Library, and forthcoming at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve – have partnered to turn the book into a storybook walk at various outdoor venues.
“This project has been a gift to our organization, and, I believe, our community” says Laura Schneider, executive director of The Reach.
“It was an extraordinary collaboration that took place at a time when publications were one of the few things we could work on at a safe distance. I am thankful for all that we learned throughout the process, but perhaps more importantly I am grateful for the relationships that have been built and deepened through this project.”
The BCMA awards committee stated: “This project addressed some very relevant and complex issues in one enjoyable, attractive, easy-to-read book that children of all ages and backgrounds can read, understand and appreciate. This book, and the programs it is generating, will have a significant impact on youth in the days ahead.”
The book is available for purchase at The Reach (32388 Veterans Way) and at the Stó:lō Gift Shop (7201 Vedder Rd., Chilliwack).