Corner Brook has received a wonderful gift. It is a gift that will bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and cultures from the west coast of British Columbia to the west coast of Newfoundland. A gift for students to learn from, a gift for our community to share, and a gift for all of us to enjoy and cherish for generations to come.
Art collectors, George and Christiane Smyth, from Victoria, B.C., (traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt, and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples), have donated 18, limited edition serigraph prints to the Grenfell Campus Art Gallery which is located on Ktaqmkuk, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq and Beothuk peoples. The prints, commissioned from contemporary emerging and established Coast Salish artists, are part of the Salish Weave Collection, an ambitious legacy project, created and funded by George and Christiane, that, according to their website, seeks “to promote awareness of Coast Salish art, and support the artists who are reviving it.”
As a visual artist and educator, I spend a lot of my time attending art related events. In July 2014, I met George and Christiane at the exhibition, RECORD, (RE)CREATE: Contemporary Coast Salish Art from the Salish Weave Collection at The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford, located on unceded Stó:lō territory in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. The show, curated by Toby Lawrence and organized by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, featured artworks by 14 artists ranging from prints by Susan Point (Musqueam), to a set of four, Healing Rattles (Earth, Wind, Fire, Water) by Angela Marston (Chemainus). It was a celebratory and special evening.
After that initial meeting, I developed a relationship with the Smyths and one day, over lunch in Victoria, as I was telling them about the Visual Arts, Theatre, and Social Sciences programs at Grenfell Campus, and our incredible student body (20 per cent of whom identify as Indigenous), they graciously offered to donate 18 of the prints, to be used as teaching and learning tools by our students and faculty. We are making plans to have the works put on public display, so that they can be experienced by the larger community in Corner Brook.
Currently, I am working with Matthew Hills, Director of the Grenfell Campus Art Gallery, to organize a panel discussion between Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Coast Salish artists, in conjunction with a public exhibition of the artworks that will unveil the donated prints and invite everyone to see these important cultural artifacts in our community, for the first time. We hope the Smyths will be able to attend the event so that we can celebrate their kindness and thank them in person for their donation, and we especially look forward to sharing this special gift with you, our community.
More information about the Coast Salish Weave Collection and Coast Salish Art in the Classroom can be found on these websites:
Ingrid Mary Percy is Associate Professor in the Visual Arts program, School of Fine Arts at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. She is also, currently, a PhD student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education, at the University of Victoria.