KPU fine arts instructor showcases art on biodiversity in the Fraser River estuary

Amy-Claire Huestis’ exhibit MOTHLIKE/silvery-blue will be at the Richmond Art Gallery until Sunday

KPU fine arts instructor Amy-Claire Huestis’ exhibit MOTHLIKE/silvery-blue raises awareness about protecting biodiversity in the Fraser River estuary. (Suneet Gill)

KPU fine arts instructor Amy-Claire Huestis’ exhibit MOTHLIKE/silvery-blue raises awareness about protecting biodiversity in the Fraser River estuary. (Suneet Gill)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University fine arts instructor Amy-Claire Huestis is raising awareness about protecting biodiversity in the Fraser River estuary through an exhibit at the Richmond Art Gallery until Aug. 20.

Huestis developed MOTHLIKE/silvery-blue, which includes artworks, performances, and public programs, after more than three years of grant-funded research and artistic work in the estuary.

“I feel a deep kinship with nature, and I want to share that with other people,” Huestis says.

“Specifically, right now, the Fraser River estuary and its key bird habitat is under threat by the proposed expansion of the Roberts Bank shipping terminal. I think it’s important to draw attention to how incredibly beautiful and wonderful the Fraser River estuary is and also how all of that wonder and beauty is under threat.”

For the exhibit’s title, Mothlike describes the flight of a bird, especially the owls in the estuary, while Silvery Blue is a character Huestis wrote a “mythopoetic cycle” about.

“She’s a person. She’s also the colour of the landscape, the colour of the land, and also a butterfly, [a] silvery-blue butterfly.”

The exhibit features flags, banners, and costumes from outdoor performances Huestis worked on with a local choir, dancers, and community members at Brunswick Point in Sept. 2022 and Garry Point Park in June 2023, both of which are sites in the estuary.

Huestis made the pieces using recycled fabrics, natural pigments, and fibres. There are 50 flags on the wall, each with text from Silvery Blue’s story on them.

Some of the costumes also include text from Silvery Blue’s story, while others “are made from elements in the landscape using photographic processes.” Huestis arranged the costumes in a circle at the centre of the gallery.

“The circle is an important form. I love working with circles and I often work with circles because the circle represents unity, completeness, cycles in nature, [and] perfection,” Huestis says.

“In our performances, we would gather in circles, … so it echoes what happened in the performances where we worked in circles and sang and danced in circles.”

The exhibit also features two videos. The first one is of the Brunswick Point performance near the gallery entrance, while the other is live footage of barn owls from the Nest Box Program, a City of Richmond conservation initiative.

The barn owl footage can be found in the “Nest-work,” an area in the exhibit Huestis designed with KPU fine arts graduate Murasaki Lau. The space is for community talks and programs. Huestis has already hosted a dance performance and a children’s book reading there, as well as a gathering of scientists and artists to talk about nests.

The windows in the space also have text in English and Chinese written on them, which is a safety treatment for preventing birds from flying into the glass.

There are copies of Huestis’s children’s book The Delta Animal Resistance and activity booklet Four Ways to Care for Birds available for sale at the gallery, which were developed in partnership with Birds Canada and KPU. She wrote the books for an educational program at Henry Anderson Elementary in Richmond during her role as the gallery’s artist-in-residence in 2021.

The Delta Animal Resistance includes the story of Silvery Blue, but also of the animals in the estuary coming together to send a message of resistance to humans. The activity book teaches children how to help birds and has colouring and drawing exercises.

“I believe in intergenerational teaching, and I always try to do intergenerational things. I don’t think that art or school or university should be just for adults — it’s really important to bring kids in, and I love doing educational projects with kids,” she says. 

For more information on the exhibit and how to attend, visit