Vince Smith of the Ehattesaht First Nation will have his art on display at the inaugural TimberWest First Nation Cultural Art Showcase event, Identity: Art as Life, at The View Gallery at Vancouver Island University starting on Thursday (Sept. 14). (Photo courtesy Monica Bailey)

Art exhibit celebrates indigenous identity

Three indigenous artists have been brought together to show off their work under one roof at VIU

Three indigenous artists representing the three major language groups on Vancouver Island have been brought together to show off their work under one roof.

Curtis Wilson from Wei Wai Kum First Nation, Richard Thomas of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Vince Smith of the Ehattesaht First Nation were selected to participate in the inaugural TimberWest First Nation Cultural Art Showcase event, Identity: Art as Life, which is being held at The View Gallery at Vancouver Island University.

TimberWest commissioned each artist to create between eight and 12 pieces for the seven-week exhibition, which begins on Thursday (Sept. 14) with an opening reception in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre.

“The intention behind that is to provide them not only with a showcase event where they can show off some of the commissioned pieces they’ve done for TimberWest, but more importantly their entire catalogue and provide the public with a really great opportunity to understand the differences and uniqueness of each of these three major language groups [and] learn and appreciate each of the artists’ points of view,” TimberWest communications director Monica Bailey said.

Bailey said the artists were selected because of their unique and extensive histories as artists.

She said Smith is a VIU alumnus who earned his fine arts degree when the school was still called Malaspina College.

“My art tells a story, and I want to share that story with the people across Vancouver Island,” Smith said in a press release. “I honed my skills at VIU years ago, and when I was a young artist it meant a great deal to interact with a First Nation artist and understand their point of view.”

Fellow VIU grad Wilson uses digital media to approach First Nations cultural representation.

“I am honoured that I was selected to represent the Kwakwaka’wakw territory, and I am excited to showcase my catalogue of work at my alma mater,” Wilson said. “My motto is the belief that every day is a learning experience and we must do our best to pass on our cultural knowledge to future generations. This opportunity is one avenue to accomplish that goal.”

Bailey added that Thomas has travelled the country, paying his way by creating and selling carvings.

“Knowing that my catalogue of work will be shown at VIU, and thousands of students will interact with my heritage and culture, makes me proud,” Thomas said.“There is no better way to start a dialogue or to understand another point of view than through art.”

Bailey said the upcoming exhibition has garnered much interest, and expects that it may become a recurring event. She hopes the show provides the artists with “a profile they so rightly deserve.

“These artists, this is for each of them their very first time having a gallery opening and a gallery showing,” she said.

“So what we hope for them is that the public gets to recognize how unique and incredible their artwork actually is and the stories behind those artists.”

WHAT’S ON … The showcase will be at The View Gallery at Vancouver Island University. Opening reception is at the Malaspina Theatre on Thursday (Sept. 14) from 4-6 p.m. Admission is free.

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