‘The Sunflower Project’ aims to connect rural communities together during these difficult times. (Black Press Media file)

Sunflower Highway, art initiative to connect Fraser Valley, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan

Sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials will be installed on public art trails

An art initiative originating from Cache Creek’s Gold Country aims to bring B.C. communities together during the difficult times bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘The Sunflower Project’ is also an environmental renewal project, taking rediscovered satellite dishes and other debris and making them into large 3D sunflower models.

Lead artist and project architect Michelle Loughery said the goal is to have a series of living art installations in various cities and towns, which will include the sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials, as well as real living sunflowers.

Loughery said the idea for the project originated in 1999 when she moved to Vernon and started work on a mural project to help revitalize the city’s downtown area.

“It was the perfect timing because the downtown association was looking for murals and they wanted to completely rebuild their downtown. So we worked together and created the downtown Vernon mural project,” she said.

“And that collaboration of leading a legacy of tourism while building infrastructure helped my career soar… and now I get to do it again as my swansong for other communities.”

The project’s goal is to have the living art installations put together to make up a ‘Sunflower Highway’, which Loughery said will be a driveable art route. Executive director of the Gold Country Communities Society Marcie Down said the art route will help B.C.’s rural communities safely gain tourist traffic.

“Some of the communities involved include Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton, so it’s a very big region. Then that will interconnect with others as well. There are just so many rural communities that need a hand during these times,” Down said.

“It’s driveable tourism. If we get hit again (with COVID-19), at least we can still drive by and have some sunflower sightings,” Loughery said.

Loughery and Down said they also want the project to be symbolic of the Gold Rush.

“The highway kind of recreates the Gold Rush route. The Gold Rush did an awful lot for the economy… so we’re going back to that thought, tracing the route, paying tribute to the immigrants and of course our Indigenous peoples,” Loughery said.

“The sunflower is indigenous to North America. (Russian czar) Peter the Great took the sunflower back to Ukraine and Russia to help build their economy and now we’re bringing it back to say ‘hey, how can we build an economy again around people, place and planet?’”

Loughery and Down are encouraging artists and residents to get involved, either by painting sunflowers or planting them. For more information, visit the project’s website.

READ: Collaborative effort to showcase historic Indigenous children’s art

READ: Exhibit highlighting Okanagan women launches in Kelowna


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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