Today’s lovely piece is by the late, great Eric Utech. Eric was an arts teacher who passed in November of 2009, just as our planning for Nomadic was in its infancy. Jim Duignan had been in contact with his colleague Anastasia Mitas at Hoffman School who suggested a novel idea for our exhibit. Eric and his students had built and stenciled the designs on this canoe in a Native Pacific Northwestern motif as one of his larger lessons on indigenous art. However, when we received it, it was unfinished. They entrusted us to bring this canoe to fruition and turn it into a memorial garden that they would help seed.
To maintain the functionality of the boat, it was coated in enamel paint which kept it waterproof. Our collaborator and hot-shot photographer of the exhibit, Kelsey Moher, was tasked to complete the painting for Eric’s canoe with some of Jim’s student workers. I think it came out wonderfully. I’d say the boat was easily fifteen feet long, and the expanse of the green interior brought a lot of light to the space. Eric’s colleagues and other well-wishers filled it with a clutch of succulents that we tended to over the course of the exhibit. Jim even hand built the “S&MDS” planter box that you can see in the photo on the right.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Eric, but his work was something I got to enjoy nearly every day for half a year. I believe the canoe went back to Hoffman School where it was used as a community garden for years afterwards. Judging by how people spoke of him, inspired hundreds through his creative capacity for seeing the world. Cheers, Eric.