“Elwha Return”

Land Trust inspired artwork hangs in the County Courthouse

Courthouse plaques began when local artist Clark Mundy and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal members Darrell Charles, Jr., and Al Charles, Jr., donated their artwork Elwha Return to the Land Trust, which then donated it to the people of Clallam County. Representing the people, County Commissioners accepted the artwork and plaques, reinforcing the County’s role in North Olympic Land Trust’s founding mission to protect special qualities of lands the County couldn’t afford to purchase.

Just as spawning salmon represent a gift to future generation, artist Mundy says: “We are all partners in the future of the amazing place, and the Land Trust is a beacon of true collaboration.”

Although the artwork focuses on salmon habitat, an important focus for the Land Trust, Elwha Return is intended to inspire everyone to work together to protect all the area’s special qualities.

Mundy said the Land Trust’s emphasis on collaboration and cooperation helped inspire the artists’ gift of Elwha Return.

“We are all partners in the future of this great place, and that’s what our piece, Elwha Return, represents – working together for the future. We wanted to support the work of the Land Trust because it is a beacon of this kind of collaboration.”

The artists’ statement also emphasizes the value of joining together for the benefit of present and future generations:

“A collaborative work celebrating the salmon’s annual journey of return and renewal, this artwork incorporates contemporary Coast Salish Design and features carved western red cedar, hand-hammered copper repoussé and abalone inlay. A female salmon releases her eggs as two males hover nearby, waiting to fertilize them – seven eggs for seven generations. A young copper-eyed salmon in her belly looks back to ancient connections while bearing witness to new life. We are all partners in this future. The journey of the spawning salmon teaches us a vital lesson: In the giveaway is the promise of the future!”

In naming the work Elwha Return, the artists pay tribute to the Elwha River and its salmon as a primary source of life and inspiration for the people of our region.

Clark Mundy, Darrell Charles Jr. and Al Charles Jr. have collaborated on numerous art projects,including the totem pole at the Port Angeles Dream Playground. Darrell Charles Jr. and Al Charles Jr. are members of the Elwha Klallam Tribe.