Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH) has a really big place in Clint George’s heart.
Three stents worth to be exact.
It was while the First Nations artist was working on Purifying Sculpture for the hospital, unveiled at a special ceremony Thursday, the Penticton Indian Band member suffered a heart attack.
“I went to Penticton Regional Hospital about 11:30 on the 12th of September and they took me in right away,” said George, 45. who was also born at PRH. “You hear all these horror stories about hospitals but they treated me so well, it was just great for me.
“For this reason it (sculpture) makes it much more personal, it’s kind of ironic it was when I was doing the sculpture for the hospital and this happened it just means a little bit more to me. I’ll never forget that sculpture. Not that I forget any of my sculptures, but that one definitely has a story behind it.”
Located in a nook, just west of the hospital’s main entrance, Purifying Sculpture, the six-by-four foot metallic artwork depicts a large abalone shell (the smoke bowl) and accompanying bundle of sage or sweet grass and a seven-foot eagle feather.
All of the items are used in the smudging ceremony, a First Nations practice of creating a cleansing smoke bath as a means of purification.
“For me it’s used when I need it, whether it be different parts of the day, season or ceremonies,” said George, who actually purified the Purifying Sculpture with a smoke bowl and special eagle feather he presented to a tearful Interior Health service administer Carl Meadows and hospital staff. “It helps calibrate my grounding to Mother Earth and my spirituality to Mother Earth on a daily basis.
“It is a sculpture I have wanted to do for many years and this was the perfect time and place to be able to build it.”
According to Interior Health, inclusion of the aboriginal artwork is to reduce barriers and create spaces that ensure aboriginal people feel safe and acknowledged when accessing health services.
It was also pointed out by Meadows, who had sat down with George earlier to plan the project, the work is a recognition of the need to address health disparities and move towards reconciliation.
“Reconciliation with our First Nations and Aboriginal peoples needs to be more than a gesture,” said Meadows. “You have to ‘feel the heal and to get well.’ This art unveiling is symbolic of the kindness of the Penticton Indian Band on whose land now sits Penticton Regional Hospital.”