This Week in History: the Indigenous Summer Arts Studio program

WatchAfter a summer showcasing carving, weaving, painting, beadwork, drum making, jewelry engraving and other arts, the Royal BC Museum hopes the Indigenous Summer Arts Studio program may one day become a permanent program.

For more than 50 years, the Royal BC Museum had a carving studio in Thunderbird Park.  Now, the Museum, indigenous artists, and community members are looking at the revival of this program.

And with that revival in mind, this past summer the Museum hosted the Indigenous Summer Arts Studio program.

“It’s inspired by the original carving studio that took place here in Thunderbird Park from 1952 to 2008,” says Hannah Morales, RBCM Cultural Learning Program Facilitator.

“We expanded the program to include multiple different mediums and artists each week. We’ve tried our best to pair more experienced artists with emerging artists, so that they can learn from one another and interact with each other.  We also had the studio open to the public Wednesday to Friday, so that they can talk to the public about their processes, and the meaning behind their artwork.”

Kwakwaka’wakw carver Kevin Cranmer is proud to be part of the studio program.  “You share the history of your people, you share the strength of your people, you share the beauty of your art form, and I think that’s the best part of it.”

Tsimshian cedar weaver Naomi White was just six or seven when she began learning her art with her grandmother.

“She would go out and gather bark,” says White, “and she taught me how to pull, and how to clean, and how to prep the cedar.  And over the last 12 years, I’ve revitalized my interest in working with cedar, and trying to mix old and new cultures, bringing them together to make it more contemporary.”

“Naomi’s an incredible weaver, Kevin is a renowned carver, so it’s really a privilege for me to be here doing what I’m doing,” says Kwagiulth artist Leslie McGarry.

A direct descendant of master carvers Chief Mungo Martin and Chief Henry Hunt, McGarry is hugely proud of what her family has taught her.

“I always think of them,” McGarry says, pointing to a picture of her grandmother on her studio table. “She and my mother have inspired me so much. I think it’s really important that the Museum have this opportunity to promote the importance of sharing, with the general public, the time-honoured traditions of First Nations people.”

The Museum is pleased with the success of the Summer Arts Studio.  After a summer showcasing carving, weaving, painting, beadwork, drum making, jewelry engraving, and other arts, the Museum hopes the Summer Arts Studio may one day become a permanent program.

“Last summer,” says Morales, “we had the Crossing Cultures and Healing Pole that was carved by Tom and Perry Lafortune. That was a really big success, and people loved to come and check in on the progress throughout the summer, so it would be great to have a permanent studio here so that the locals and the tourists can come.”

And a permanent studio where indigenous artists can share their art and their knowledge with the public, and each other.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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