University of the Fraser Valley

Flood Stories to be on display at The Reach

Flood Stories to be on display at The Reach

This photo by UFV student Adam Magalhaes, taken near Whatcom Road during the November 2021 Sumas Prairie flood, won second place in the photography category in the Flood Stories project.

UFV’s Flood Stories project collected introspective and impactful stories, images, art, and insights from people affected by the devastating Sumas Prairie flood of November 2021 and related environmental disasters.

Now the public will be able to view the results of the project at a special exhibition at Abbotsford’s The Reach Gallery Museum. The Flood Stories project will be featured in The Reach’s community arts space from January 27 to March 18. The exhibition will also feature eyewitness narratives, compelling stories, and images of people affected by the floods that were collected through the Climate Disaster Project and featured in the Fraser Valley Current e-newsletter.

Dr. Michelle Superle, a UFV English professor and research associate with UFV’s Food and Agriculture Institute, organized the Flood Stories project with the help of research assistant Sydney Marchand, a recent BA grad.

Superle notes that the Flood Stories project is an example of how UFV can be a leader in engaging the community through an approach that leverages the power of the humanities, including written narratives and artistic expressions, to highlight the importance of agriculture.

“Art is a powerful tool for communicating broad, abstract concepts such as climate change and regional food security, both of which tie in the devastating Sumas Prairie floods,” she notes.

Dr. Michelle Superle. Photo: Sarah Sovereign

“Art is a powerful tool for communicating broad, abstract concepts such as climate change and regional food security, both of which tie in the devastating Sumas Prairie floods” — Dr. Michelle Superle

“The inspiration for the Flood Stories project was two-fold: to create space for everyone who wanted to share their flood story to tell it in their own way, and to demonstrate respect for the local farmers who work so hard to feed us. The ultimate purpose of both parts of this project was to support healing. Responses to the project have exceeded our expectations: the stories and art people have shared are incredibly powerful. They demonstrate the best, most beautiful facets of humanity — hope, collaboration, and persistence. We are grateful to have met and worked with so many wonderful members of the community on this project. Thank you for trusting us with your stories.”

The exhibit opens at the Reach just in time for Family Literacy Day on January 28, which is appropriate, notes Superle, because the exhibit features many works by children, a result of working collaboratively with the Abbotsford School District for the Flood Stories project.

This photo by UFV sustainability coordinator Jennifer Martel won third place in the photography category in the Flood Stories project. It shows the flooded Sumas Prairie, and smoke from a fire that broke out during the flood at an RV dealership adjacent to the prairie.

The Flood Stories project engaged farmers in the Fraser Valley who were affected by the November 2021 extreme flooding events, inviting them and their families to share their experiences in spoken, written, and artistic format. The project used a narrative approach to better understand how Abbotsford farmers have been affected by floods and what they need to begin thriving again.

In addition, a contest was held for school children from Abbotsford and Chilliwack in grades K through 12, as well as UFV students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

“We recognize that the flood was a very unusual and traumatic experience for many people, both those whose properties flooded and those who observed their fellow citizens undergoing extreme stress,” notes Superle. “We thought it was important to tell those stories, record them for posterity, and learn from them. Telling their story can also be therapeutic for those affected.”

The Flood Stories expressive arts contest and winning entries can be viewed here and in person at The Reach starting January 27. The Reach Gallery Museum is located

Categories and winners

1st place written category: Sarah Brown

1st place visual art category: Brianna Plett

1st place photography category: Cobi Timmermans

2nd place written category: Sha Scholtens

2nd place visual art category: Victoria (Vivi) Vergara

2nd place photography category: Adam Magalhaes

3rd place written category: Emili Kaplin

3rd place visual art category: Jenna Cowie-Randle

3rd place photography category: Jennifer Martel


Grades K-7 

1st place written category: Clara Fairbairn

1st place visual art category: Barrowtown Elementary

1st place “other” category: Greendale Elementary Division 4 & 5

2nd place written category: Greendale Elementary, class submission Division 8

2nd place visual art category: Greendale Elementary, Ms. Durflinger’s class

2nd place “other” category: Greendale Elementary, Division 7

3rd place written category: Audrey Kaszonyi

3rd place visual art category: Susan White’s Grade 2/3 class, honorable mention to Bhavdeep Malhi

3rd place “other” category: Greendale Elementary, Division 1


Grades 8-12

1st place visual art category: Jessica Boon

2nd place visual art category: Julia Janzen


The Reach Gallery Museum has also invited UFV and Superle to exhibit two other 20 Harvest Challenge projects in 2023: the Dress for Your Rights! Fibre Museum + Challenge will run from March 20 through April 29; the Dig for Your Rights! Food Museum + Challenge will run from September 20 through November 10. Each exhibit run includes three Weekend Family Arts workshops and one Coffee, Culture, Cookies presentation/discussion with the general public.


The Reach Gallery Museum is located at 32388 Veterans Way, Abbotsford.