The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Haiku Invitational attracts writers from all over the world to submit poems from which winners are selected in six categories. The winning haiku are then given to emerging and established artists from cultural partners of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and Japanese-Canadian artists to produce exciting new visual works to celebrate the 2024 winning haiku and the transcendent fleeting beauty of the flowering cherry tree.

We conducted interviews with each of the artists featured in the 2024 Haiku Exhibition, delving into their creative processes and sources of inspiration behind their respective art pieces.

Please note we have made slight adjustments for clarity and coherence while preserving the artists’ original words.

“What was the inspiration behind your art piece? What elements of the haiku did you incorporate?”

everything possible
cherry trees
C. Jean Downer

Drawing from the imagery of East Vancouver and the haiku’s essence, my work is a fusion of analog and digital mediums, mirroring the intersection of tradition and modernity. Through film photography overlaid with digital elements, I aim to evoke a sense of timelessness, reflecting the depth of emotion encapsulated in the haiku’s verse.

Arleigh Endo Wood

blossom petals
the shelter entry
John Pappas

Inspired by John Pappas’s poem, I sought to capture the tender essence of childhood amidst the juxtaposition of beauty and harsh reality. Choosing Coast Salish bears as protagonists, I aimed to evoke the warmth of parental love and the innocent joy of chasing cherry blossoms, alluding to the enduring presence of homelessness. By removing gender labels, I invite viewers to empathize universally with the narrative, reminding us that amidst the cherry blossoms’ splendor, homelessness persists.

Míkw’achi7m | Marissa Nahanee

a blackbird sings the cherry
into bloom
Polona Oblak

My art harmonizes contrasting elements, blending avant-garde with organic, and traditional Japanese motifs with contemporary design. Inspired by the haiku’s imagery of a blackbird singing at daybreak, I infused vibrant neon colors and Japanese patterns against a spray-painted background, creating a modern interpretation that resonates with the dawn’s hues.

Taka Sudo

late-night fog
cherry blossoms
light the way
Isabella Slattery Shannon

In response to the haiku’s evocative imagery of fog and cherry blossoms lighting the way, my piece embodies movement and illumination. Reflecting on our ancestral ties to nighttime activities, I incorporated flowing cherry blossoms animated by the wind, illuminated by the moon’s gentle glow. By incorporating elements such as shells by the water, I symbolize the moonlight’s reflective essence, guiding our journey like the blossoms in the mist.

Olivia George

first blossoms
a bit of Bach
from a busker’s guitar
LeRoy Gorman

Enthralled by the haiku’s reference to “a bit of Bach,” I immersed myself in Glenn Gould’s rendition of the Well-Tempered Clavier, finding inspiration in its timeless beauty. Integrating musical notation into my design, I considered transforming notes into cherry blossoms before realizing the power of musical language itself. With the addition of a QR code, viewers can experience Gould’s performance firsthand, adding a multi-dimensional layer to the artwork’s narrative.

Pia Yona Massie

cherry blossoms . . .
we switch to
our mother tongue
Antoinette Cheung

Drawing from Coast Salish elemental design and the poet’s haiku, this piece reflects the enduring cycle and connection we share with nature. It portrays the beauty of cherry blossoms and spring birds, reminding us of the gift of new life and the generations preceding us. Sparrows, representing my family name and heritage, dance amidst ancestral motifs. Created digitally, this artwork embraces tradition in a new medium, honoring our ancestors and mother tongue as we evolve in the world of art.

Cole Sparrow-Crawford

Artist Bios

Arleigh Endo Wood

I am a mixed media artist working in East Vancouver. While my main practice is painting, I have experience working with murals and graphic design. You can see my mural work at the Birkenstock flagship store on West 4th and at the Royal Centre downtown. My paintings are in private and corporate collections as well as in galleries. 

Themes in my work include home, memory, climate change and exploring my Japanese-Canadian heritage.

Cole Sparrow-Crawford

Being raised by strong, resilient, and proud people in the Musqueam village has shaped all aspects of my life as an Indigenous artist. 

The knowledge passed down from generations before me, along with my experience and insight gained in my various studies have given me a unique perspective that has informed my work in the arts, business, and decolonial practice. 

My motivation in a professional capacity and beyond is to create space for Indigenous people, culture, politics, and knowledge, while always contributing to my community.

Míkw’achi7m | Marissa Nahanee

Nuu chayap men wa ha7lh, 
Míkw’achi7m kwin kwshámin, 
Marissa Nahanee kwi en sna,
Tiná7 chen tl’a Esla7án Úxwumixw, 
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh chen iy Nisga’a chen, 
An wenáxws ten sḵwálwen.

Greetings to all of you and I hope you are well, Míkw’achi7m is my true name,
Marissa Nahanee is my English name,
I come from the Esla7án Village in North Vancouver, B.C., I am from the Squamish and Nisga’a Nations, I am honoured to be here.

In Squamish protocol, I have introduced myself to you so that you know who I am, and where I come from. I am a third-generation artist on both sides of my family, and through art I connect with my ancestors and bring them into our modern way, carrying our teachings and protocol forward. My grandfather taught me that art is an unspoken collaboration between viewer and artist. When creating art, I think of you, the viewer, and infuse you into the piece. As you experience my art, we are creating something beautiful together that will become a piece of both of our stories.

About the Artist
Marissa Nahanee is a Squamish and Nisga’a artist living in Esla7án (North Vancouver). She is a member of the Eagle Clan. Her artistic focus is on carrying tra- ditional teachings and protocol into the modern world through her art, bringing lessons of humility, generosity and respect. The granddaughter of Chief Chester Moors O.B.C. and the daughter of Latash Maurice Nahanee, Marissa grew up surrounded by art and has been an artist since a young age. As an adult, Marissa graduated from the Art Institute of Vancouver and Native Education College specializing in Northwest coast graphics. She also studied under the mentorship of many teachers, including Dorothy Grant, Robert Tait, Trevor Angus and Shawn Evanshaw. Marissa draws inspiration from her Ancestors and Elders and continues to perfect her art, melding traditional styles with modern platforms. She practises Coast Salish and Northern formline.

Olivia George

I am a Tsleil-Waututh Nation artist, born and raised in North Vancouver. My favourite mediums are acrylic paint on canvas and producing digital designs. After attaining a Graphic Design diploma I have been able to create many designs and logos. A couple recent projects were medal designs for HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby, painted mural projects with Vancouver Mural Festival and to be announced Public Art with the District of North Vancouver. Being a self-taught Coast Salish artist, I always strive to represent a story, animal, brand, or any special meaning with creativity, honour, and respect. Drawing inspiration from traditional beliefs, modern elements and nature.

Pia Yona Massie

Pia Yona Massie is a Japanese / Scottish multi-media artist, environmental activist, and teacher. Deep gratitude to be living on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, in this beautiful place where her Japanese grandfather raised her Mama, before
World War 2. Loving both cherry trees and haikus, it a great honor to be a part of this festival.

Massie’s films and art have been exhibited in museums, festivals, and galleries throughout North America and Europe, including The Museum of Modern Art, NYC; Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Lausanne; and the grunt gallery, MÓNICA REYES GALLERY and Gallery 881 in Vancouver, BC. Massie’s writing has appeared in: DAMP: Contemporary Vancouver Media Art;
Foret-Frontiere : Une Action Art / Nature; as well as The Bulletin, Adbusters and Ricepaper magazines. At this moment, forty years of her work is being brought online for a special collections archive by VIVO Media Arts.

Taka Sudo

Born and raised in Tokyo, now residing in Vancouver Canada. Taking influences from those totally different environment to create the unique style of artworks. Scattered abstract elements composed of neon colour, neutral colour, newsprint and photo collage etc assemble into organic shapes, to find out strong true energy among real and unreal. Those scattered various elements in abstraction are the representation of our environment, existence, daily life, current affairs, information, and each person’s passion, energy etc. Through the adventure between reality and abstraction, you may be able to find your own dynamo to start bright day with beautiful people.

Where To Visit the 2024 Haiku Exhibition:

March 29-31
Blossoms After Dark @ David Lam Park

March 30
The Big Picnic @ David Lam Park

April 2-11
Museum of Vancouver

April 13-14
Sakura Days Japan Fair @ VanDusen Botanical Garden
Each piece of art wraps around a tree in the Cherry Tree Grove by the Upper Lawn.