Artist wins national award

His steel sculptures decorate places near and far


January 8, 2020

Marchand works on his 400-piece, 7-foot wingspan eagle sculpture titled "Bringing Our Kids Home" at his workshop in Omak.

Local artist and Colville Tribes member Virgil "Smoker" Marchand is one of four recipients of a 2020 Community Spirit Award from a national organization.

"These artists embody their People's cultural assets in their creations and their way of life," the the First Peoples Fund's website says about the award recipients.

Marchand was nominated by Kenneth "Butch" Stanger, who has known Marchand for over 60 years.

"Smoker may be local to us, but his talent should be shared with the entire country," Stanger is quoted as saying on the First Peoples website. "He has done many paintings of our people, tribal leaders, art that depicts our culture and traditions. Everyone deserves a chance to experience Smoker's art."

"I've known him my whole life," Marchand told The Star about Stanger. "He was the (tribal) planning director back in the day. We've known each other forever, and have always been good friends. I can't remember when I didn't know him."

Marchand is currently the senior planner for the Colville Tribe's planning department and is ]working on Inchelium's wellness center/community center, and working with Fish and Wildlife on putting in a boat ramp below fish farm.

But he stays busy with his art too, having just finished a 400-piece eagle sculpture with a 7-foot wingspan titled "Bringing Our Kids Home," a reference to the names of children who were in "residential schools," being engraved on the pieces of the eagle, Marchand explained.

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Marchand said his art career took off after he transitioned from two-dimensional work to the 3-D steel sculptures which he started in 2000.

George Flett, a Spokane artist who has since passed away, was to Marchand "a remarkable artist and a good friend."

"He told me to do this steel work," he said about Flett. "I never touched a torch or a plasma cutter in my life. It spooked the hell out of me, at first."

"Chief Louie, from Canada, asked me to do a horse and rider, and that thing there just took off," Marchand continued. "I've done so many horse and riders. They took one to Edmonton, Canada."

Marchand has a lot of pieces in Canada "from Kelowna to Osoyoos," he said, and is currently working on another horse and rider holding a dip-net and spear for the town of Oliver, British Columbia.

"It's crazy; we always thought it would end and I'm 20 years into it and I'm busier than I've been in a long time," he said, adding that the cold of winter makes it hard to do his work outside his home and shop in Omak.

Marchand said he just got a contract from the Yakama tribe to do a sculpture of Chief Kamiakin and he will have several pieces in a new park in Spokane on Lincoln Street behind a library there, a park he said he thinks is opening this year.

"I love it, it gives me some adrenalyn," he said about being busy as an artist. "I just have to find time to do it now."



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