The Latest and Greatest – Pratt Homes Art Competition – H.I.O. Big Chiefs

Every once in awhile something really amazing comes along that you just can’t believe you get to be part of. One week after receiving the International Sculpture Centre’s “Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award”, I was contacted by Pratt Homes to inquire as to whether or not I would be interested in participating in their upcoming Art Competition. 

I hesitantly said yes, never having had the experience of creating a proposal of this magnitude and still in the middle of finishing up some other projects. I knew I would be up against the heavy hitters: Ted Fullerton (a former professor of mine), Ron Baird (the creator of Barrie’s iconic Spirit Catcher) and John McEwen (whose work, both on a small and large scale, I’ve admired for years). I only had one month to come up with an idea, prepare maquette’s (small scale models), get quotes, prep imagery and write my submission proposal. After some (now) much appreciated encouragement from friends I decided to take it on knowing it would be, if anything, a great learning opportunity. Was it ever!

Always interested in putting forth meaningful work, I started with research about the Kempenfelt Bay and Simcoe County area with respect to First Nation’s and their history in the area. This is when H.I.O. Big Chiefs was born.

Artist Statement – H.I.O. Big Chiefs
Simcoe County and the City of Barrie have a varied and remarkable history. Much of the earliest history revolves around the Indigenous peoples who settled in the area. Prior to the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in 1615, the area around Kempenfelt Bay was composed of Huron villages that used the land and waterways for hunting, fishing and trade. Less than four decades later, the Huron were overtaken by the Iroquois who laid claim to the area until the late 1690’s when they were ousted by the Ojibwe. Symbolic to Indigenous modes of transportation, the canoe, certainly played an important part in the lives of all tribes who inhabited the area. It was with all of this in mind that the concept for H.I.O Big Chiefs was conceived. Standing proudly overlooking Kempenfelt Bay and much of Barrie, three “Big Chiefs” pay tribute to the First Nations that lived, fought and shaped what Simcoe County has come to be.

HIO-Big-Chiefs-Aylan-Couchie-2 HIO-Big-Chiefs-Aylan-Couchie-1


See the final piece and VOTE HERE!

Voting begins on July 31, 2015 and ends September 14, 2015. I am so very grateful to Pratt Homes in Barrie for providing me with this opportunity. It’s been a unique experience and I hope that this inspires other developers in the Simcoe County region to follow suit.


Hunter, A. F. (n.d.). A Voice From the Past. Retrieved from The History of Simcoe County :

Rudychyk, B. (n.d.). The History of the Nine-Mile Portage. Retrieved from The City of Barrie – Nine Mile Portage Heritage Trail :

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Aylan Couchie is an Anishinaabe interdisciplinary artist and writer hailing from Nipissing First Nation in Northern Ontario.

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