Jim Hart’s tribute to wild Pacific salmon – a Haida masterwork being born


Vancouver-based Pacific Salmon Foundation is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon and their ecosystems. We work to bring salmon back, stream by stream through the strategic use of resources and local communities. We’re an independent non-governmental organization that guides the sustainable future of Pacific salmon and their habitat. Our organization is a catalyst that connects and motivates people, communities, organizations and businesses to restore and regenerate Pacific salmon populations in British Columbia and the Yukon. Each month V.I.A. provides a platform for us to bring you something awesome concerning salmon in British Columbia!

Jim and Carl Hart carving their tribute to wild Pacific salmon. Photo by Bill Pusztai.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation team was honoured to be invited to the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art to see renowned Haida master artist Jim Hart and his four assistants at work carving a magnificent, 16 foot by 11 foot red cedar screen celebrating wild Pacific salmon and the salmon people. Jim has dedicated the screen to telling salmon stories and features crest figures from his family.

Jim’s assistants working on the Salmon Screen. Photo by Bill Pusztai.

The intricate cedar screen features 20-some wild Pacific salmon, an eagle, bear, orcas, a shaman, and raven among others – all of which are part of salmon’s life in the Pacific.

Animals of the salmon people can be seen featured on this magnificent screen. This includes an eagle (top centre), a bear (middle centre) a beaver (middle left), the raven (middle right) male (below the beaver) and female (below the raven) orcas, and of course, the salmon (the faces of the fish can be seen around the exterior border of the screen). Additionally, three-dimensional salmon will be featured on the border as well. The finished product will include whale bone veneers on the orcas’ teeth, abalone shells (from Monterey California) as decoration and tribute, and possibly mica and glass on the salmon to give them life and movement in water. Photo by Cait Pilon.

The impressive carving is a creation of love – Jim took more than three years to gather all the necessary pieces of red cedar, which is special wood salvaged from wildfires on Haida Gwaii. Jim and his team have been working on this screen during the past 15 months.

Carl Hart putting finishing touches on the carving. Photo by Cait Pilon.

For a limited time only, Jim and his assistants will be at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art completing the cedar screen. Please visit the Bill Reid Gallery during their public hours (Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm) to view Jim and his team in action. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $5 for youth and children (prices do not include HST). Entry is free for Gallery members. Please call ahead to 604.682.3455 to ensure that Jim and his team will be at the gallery during your visit.

About Jim Hart

Jim Hart speaking to the public about the Salmon Screen at the Bill Reid Gallery. Photo by Bill Pusztai.

Chief James (Jim) Hart is a Haida carver, sculptor and artist who comes from a long line of carver Haida Chiefs, the most noted of which is his great-great-grandfather, Charles Edenshaw.

Born in 1952 into the Eagle clan in Massett, Jim has pursued work as a Haida artist since 1979. He began working with Bill Reid in 1980 on The Raven and the First Men at the Museum of Anthropology, and until 1984, worked with Reid on many important sculptures and smaller works.

Hart carved his first totem pole for the Museum of Anthropology and raised it in the traditional manner. Since then, he has carved numerous big Haida totems, including the Celebration of Bill Reid Pole raised in the Bill Reid Gallery in 2008.