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New downtown bench honours late Nuxalk artist

Renowned Nuxalk artist Marven Tallio passed away in 2018

A carved bench and covered area has been installed across the street from the Bella Coola Co-op on the townsite reserve to honour late Nuxalk “Kwyaax,” Marven Glenn Tallio. Tallio was born in 1966 in Bella Bella and studied jewelry design under Haisla master carver Derek Wilson. His father, Glenn Tallio, is also a renowned carver who’s works are featured in museums around the world.

Tallio’s widow, Marlene King, said she chose that particular site because Tallio had done a lot of work on the nearby Residential School Survivors totem pole. King said she knew she wanted to install a bench to honour Tallio, but the story of how this particular bench was chosen is quite remarkable.

“I had another bench picked out and I was going out to put my deposit on it at Pioneer Log Homes in Williams Lake,” she explained. “On my way over I tripped over this one; I hadn’t even seen this one. Right then I knew that was the bench.”

The bench features two carved eagles, Tallio’s crest, holding up each end. The eagles’ wings extend across the back side of the bench, encircling those who sit down in it.

“Marven always said he was going to come back as an eagle,” she said. “But if I hadn’t tripped over it, I wouldn’t have seen it.”

King said that the bench is getting lots of use and is also used by children waiting for the bus in the morning, as the covered area (which was donated by Nuxalk College) shelters them from the rain. A sign indicating the donation from the college is also in the works.

“It’s already drawn a lot of people and it’s something positive for the community,” she said. “This is the best way I could think of to honour him.”

Tallio’s work has garnered international acclaim and his pieces can be found in many collections worldwide including the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver and the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. In 2005, Tallio’s work was included in the “Totems to Turquoise” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was one of a select group of artists recognized as among the best carvers of Northwest Coast jewelry in the world. Marven Tallio passed away in September 2018.