2012 Audain professor Nicholas Galanin wins $50,000 in US fellowship

Nicholas Galanin, UVic’s 2012 Audain Professor in Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest, has won a $50,000 Rasmuson Fellowship from the United States Artists organization.

The Sitka-born Galanin is a multi-disciplinary Tlingit/Aleut artist who has struck an intriguing balance between his origins and exploration in new perceptual territory. His teaching term with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts ran throughout fall 2012—shorter than previous Audain Professors Rebecca Belmore and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, but all the time his busy schedule would allow. Like Belmore and Yahgulanaas, however, Galanin will present an exhibit of new work in the Audain Gallery in September 2013.

Galanin’s famous “Inert”

United States Artists—a non-profit organization aimed at investing in “America’s finest artists”—has granted nearly $18 million to artists over the past seven years. Galanin is one of 54 artists who have each received an unrestricted grant of $50,000 this year. According to the USA news release, the artists were chosen for “reflecting the diversity of artistic practice in America” and include “cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts.”

Galanin’s “Things are Looking Native, Natives Looking Whiter”

As reported on the Canadian Art website, Galanin’s fellowship was in the Crafts and Traditional Arts category—although, as the USA news release states, “his work might also be described simply as contemporary art with Native themes.” Galanin is an artist who defies categorization, a visual artist and musician (who performs as Silver Jackson) whose multimedia pieces often involve computers, video, photo manipulation or sculpture in a variety of forms.

Speaking to the Anchorage Daily News, Galanin admits that some might see the “traditional arts” designation as a bit of a stretch. “But based on my contacts and the people on the panel, it was the right choice,” he told ADN. “A lot of my art comes from the traditional context. But I don’t care what they call it.”

Canadian Art‘s Leah Sandals notes that his work was recently featured in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Beat Nation, a survey of artists “who connect Aboriginal identity and urban youth culture . . . A touring version of the show will open at Toronto’s Power Plant on December 15. Galanin’s work was also featured in group shows at Vancouver’s Grunt Gallery and Bill Reid Gallery over the past year, while Trench Contemporary Art (his Vancouver dealer) recently wrapped a solo show titled I LOOOOOVE YOUR CULTURE. His work was also in Montreal gallery Art Mûr’s A Stake in the Ground, curated by Nadia Myre, in January.”
When asked about his plans for the prize money, Galanin told ADN‘s Mike Dunham, “I’m saving it. Maybe it will go to buy a home or get my studio built.”

Audain professor makes history again with Witness Blanket

Indigenous concepts and Western legal principles have been united in a historically unique agreement signed by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and Carey NewmanAudain Professor in the Department of Visual Arts. The agreement covers the protection and use of The Witness Blanket, Newman’s powerful art installation made with over 800 items collected from the sites and survivors of Indian residential schools across Canada.

Carey Newman’s “Witness Blanket” installed at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg (photo: Jessica Sigurdson, CMHR)

An unprecedented move

In an unprecedented move, written documents and an oral ceremony have been given equal weight in an agreement that vests legal rights with the artwork itself, as a living entity that honours the stories of the survivors.

Audain professor Carey Newman

“Rather than trying to decide our rights, we put the rights with the Blanket and the stories that were given to us by survivors,” says Newman (Ha-Yalth-Kin-Geme), a Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist and master carver from Sooke. “We were not negotiating against each other but collaborating together in the best interest of the Blanket itself. We didn’t want to treat it like a transfer of property because I don’t feel ownership of the Blanket, I feel responsibility towards it and I wanted to make sure the Museum felt this too.”

UVic professor Rebecca Johnson, associate director of the Indigenous Law Research Unit, reviewed the agreement before it was finalized and called it “totally unique”.

“It has huge implications for me as a law professor because it models new and hopeful possibilities of seeing the law in its creative and expansive forms, not just as something that constrains and punishes,” she says. “It captures the heart of what’s possible when people work together to imagine new ways of drawing on law—both Indigenous and Canadian—to move us in a new direction.”

UVic’s Faculty of Law plans to incorporate the agreement into its curriculum, which will help students explore creative avenues for drawing Indigenous and Canadian legal orders together.

Read more in the CBC story here.

Relationships, not ownership

Now that the 12-metre-long, cedar-framed artwork—which was first presented publicly at UVic back in 2014—has been taken into the care and protection of the CMHR in Winnipeg on Treaty 1 Territory, it will undergo restoration work after several years of traveling, including an extended exhibition at the CMHR in 2015-16. A new traveling version of the Witness Blanket has also been created, which will have its first showing at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery from May 4 to June 23.

Interacting with the installation. (Photo: Jessica Sigurdson/ CMHR)

CMHR president and CEO John Young said meaningful working relationships with Indigenous people create opportunities to learn, grow and share in new ways—which is also important to reconciliation. “Museums have sometimes assumed a unilateral authority to interpret Indigenous cultures and artifacts,” he says. “In collaborating with our Indigenous partners, we instead work to honour the perspectives, skills and experience they bring to the discussions.”

CMHR head of collections Heather Bidzinski researched positive examples from other cultural institutions but worked to create something entirely unique. “This agreement is based on understanding each others’ traditions in a mutually respectful way and recognizing that agreements are really about relationships—not about concepts of indemnity and ownership, which can be adversarial and confrontational,” she says

The new documentary film, Picking up the Pieces, about the making of the Witness Blanket—which debuted last fall at the Vancouver International Film Festivalwas also shown at the CMHR as part of the announcement, followed by a conversation with Newman and film producer Cody Graham of Victoria-based Media One.

The CMHR’s Young said the Witness Blanket is a work of national significance that provides a tangible framework for conversations about the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. “Its stories, its objects and what they represent help us better understand this issue in terms of human realities and consequences instead of being just an abstract concept. As a national museum devoted to human rights education, we are committed to playing a meaningful role in sharing this truth as we work towards reconciliation.”

Newman is the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with UVic’s Visual Arts department. As well as being a former School of Music student, Newman is the first Audain professor to hold a three-year position with the department. Previous Audain professors include Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore, Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Jackson 2Bears.

UVic promotes teaching that reflects the aspirations and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including addressing issues most relevant to Indigenous people and working with Indigenous communities and organizations to understand, preserve and celebrate traditions, knowledge and cultures.

New Audain professor examines art as act of reconciliation

When Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket was unveiled at the University of Victoria in 2014, it was clear the large-scale installation would quickly become a national monument and spark reflection and conversation about residential schools, settler-Indigenous relations and reconciliation. Now, Newman will continue the conversation as the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.

Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman installs the Witness Blanket at UVic ahead of its unveiling in 2014 at a global conference hosted by the university. Photo: Suzanne Ahearne

“This is breaking new ground for me,” says Newman. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to convert the experience of mentorship into a more formal educational setting.”

UVic promotes teaching that reflects the aspirations and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including addressing issues most relevant to Indigenous people and working with Indigenous communities and organizations to understand, preserve and celebrate traditions, knowledge and cultures.

A former UVic School of Music student, Newman will be the first Audain professor to hold a new three-year position with the department. He will also play a role in the award-winning ACE program with UVic’s Gustavson School of Business, which supports the entrepreneurial practices of Indigenous artists.

“As a master carver, Carey Newman has extensive knowledge of traditions and teachings, as well as a keen interest in contemporary design and digital processes,” says visual arts chair Paul Walde. “Not only is he an extremely well-established artist, but he has strong connections in different mediums and disciplines, both nationally and internationally. With him in the department, we know we would all learn a lot—faculty and students alike—and we look forward to how we can be enriched by that dialogue.”

The artist in his studio in 2013/14, working on one of the cedar panels for the Witness Blanket. Photo: Media One.

The master carver for the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, Newman had another piece, “Dancing Wind,” featured at the 2010 Olympic Games. For over 20 years, he owned Sooke’s recently closed Blue Raven Gallery. He is also an accomplished pianist and singer who has performed at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and with Pacific Opera Victoria, where he is currently a board member.

Best known for his 12-metre-long Witness Blanket—created and assembled from 600 objects and artifacts including pieces of residential schools, an old drum and a shoe—Newman spent four years travelling across Canada with the installation that evokes the atrocities of Indian residential schools and a national journey toward reconciliation. Newman is excited to bring ideas of reconciliation into his classes at UVic.

“I’m interested in looking at how artists can take on the issue of reconciliation through their own relationship with Canada,” he says. “That way, it’s not limiting it to Indigenous people but is encouraging anyone, even international students, to relate to it.”

Established by a $2-million gift from philanthropist and UVic alumnus Michael Audain in 2010, the position has brought distinguished practicing artists Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin, Michael Nicol YahgulanaasJackson 2Bears, and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore to teach in the visual arts department.

 

Lunchtime artist talks on contemporary Indigenous art practices

Interested in contemporary Indigenous art practices? Excited by some of the dynamic and engaging work being created and exhibited both locally and nationally? Wondering how contemporary artists respond to important issues like Truth & Reconciliation, and Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women & Girls? Join the Visual Arts department for a special illustrated lunchtime lecture series featuring three prominent local Indigenous artists.

Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob: Friday, March 9 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building

Lindsay Delaronde: Monday, March 12 • room A146 of the Visual Arts building

Carey Newman: Friday, March 16 • room 103 of the Fine Arts building

All talks run noon to 1pm, and all are free.

About the artists:

From Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob’s “Transfigurations”

Visual Arts BFA/MFA alumnus Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob is a multidisciplinary artist from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Coming from a background of carving, Wenstob’s work has transformed and reformed many times over the years, working in many different mediums, with a focus on sculpture. He has three dialects of art practices, all from the same visual language: traditional work, community/engagement, and contemporary art. While heavily involved in youth engagement and politics, as the Assembly of First Nation’s youth representative for BC and Canada, Wenstob’s work has taken on a balance of history, education, humour, question, and politics.

Coming from a background of carving masks, totem poles and working predominantly in red cedar, Wenstob’s work has transformed through materials and subject matter. With an interest in public installation, curation, mentorship, and sculpture, Wenstob has had work displayed and installed nationally across Canada. His most recent installation—created while mentoring youth—was four Bighouses on the front lawn of the BC Legislature building, which then led to a show currently on view at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

Visual Arts MFA alumna Lindsay Delaronde is currently the City of Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence and a strong advocate for Indigenous voices, stories, culture and history. Born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation, Delaronde has been living on the West Coast for the past 10 years. In addition to her Visual Arts MFA, she holds a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, and a Master’s degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology, also from UVic.

A professional multi-disciplinary visual artist who works in contemporary Indigenous performance and facilitator of traditional workshops, Delaronde has been consistently active and made significant commitments at the local and national level. Her areas of research are stemmed in Contemporary and Traditional First Nations art, expressive arts therapy and working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within the arts and counseling. Her research focuses on land- based, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts.

Carey Newman

Carey Newman or Hayalthkin’geme is a multi-disciplinary artist and master carver. Through his father he is Kwagiulth from the Kukwekum, Giiksam and WaWalaby’ie clans of Fort Rupert, and Sto:Lo from Cheam along the upper Fraser Valley; through his mother he is English, Irish, and Scottish. Through his work he strives to highlight either Indigenous, social, or environmental issues. He is also interested in engaging with community and incorporating socially innovative practice into his artistic process. Newman’s most recent major work — the Witness Blanket, made of items collected from residential schools, government buildings and churches across the Canada — deals with the subject of reconciliation. (Another prominent local public piece is the ornately carved ceiling of Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre on Balmoral Road.)

In 2008, Newman was selected as the master carver of the Cowichan 2008 Spirit Pole, a journey that saw him travel BC sharing the experience of carving a 20-foot totem with over 11,000 people. In 2009, he was selected from a national call to artists by VANOC and won the right to create a large installation: his piece “Dancing Wind” was featured during the 2010 Olympic Games, and consisted of 4 large panels, made from stainless steel, cedar and glass. He has done work for corporations, government agencies and museums around the world and is continually thankful for the opportunity to try new ideas.

These talks are in addition to the Visual Arts department’s proven commitment to Indigenous artists and their practices, as evidenced by their long-running Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest—which has afforded Visual Arts students the opportunity to work with the likes of Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Rande Cook, Nicholas Galanin and Jackson 2Bears. And the Faculty of Fine Arts supports the work of Indigenous artists and creative practitioners in a variety of ways, which you can read about here

Sacred art, sacred teachings

Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)

It has been a busy couple of years for Rande Cook. Beyond his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice, Cook just completed two back-to-back terms as the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.

“Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken, because it challenged them internally.”

More than just creating a challenging course, however, Cook found the Audain Professorship provided him with the chance to bring his own artistic training into play.

Viewers at Cook’s Audain Exhibition

“Having the opportunity to share what I do from a strong First Nations background was key,” he explains. “Bringing that knowledge into an institution where students don’t really understand traditional teaching gave me the chance to share the real foundation of what the art is: that it comes from a sacred place, that the teachings are sacred.”

Cook is the sixth artist to hold the Audain Professorship, following the likes of Jackson 2Bears, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore.

As he reflected in this interview following his first year in the position, “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now, which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging.”

Rande Cook speaking at the art education conference

Now he feels two years in the position allowed him greater freedom to explore key concepts. “I could break down the art form into its elements and show them how to put it back together. It was like dissecting a symphony: a violin can play anything, once you learn it, but it’s up to you to decide the song and how it should be played.”

Beyond his time in the classroom, Cook was also frequently seen around UVic in his role as chief, participating in events at First Peoples House, drumming for ceremonial openings, speaking at educational conferences, and taking part in discussions about greater indigenization on campus.

Cook also presented a retrospective of his work in October 2016 as the annual Audain Exhibition. Held each fall in the Audain Gallery, Cook’s Accumulation was timed to coincide with Intersections, a combined conference by the BC Art Teachers Association and the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A highlight of the event, Accumulation also provided context for remarks by Cook, who led a workshop at the conference — which also featured a keynote address by Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas, a former Audain Professor himself.

Collaboration Mask, seen at the Audain Exhibition

Among the pieces on display at Accumulation was a mask collaboratively created with local artist Carollyne Yardley. Aptly titled “/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask,” the piece is a good example of both Cook’s connections with Victoria’s greater arts community and his contemporary take on traditional art forms.

“in an era of reconciliation, art has once again become a node through which native and non-native engagement is flourishing through agendas of healing, understanding and respect . . . ‘/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask’ is an aesthetic response to this cultural resurgence in Canada,” writes Fine Arts alumna Dr. Andrea Walsh in this short essay about the piece.

And does he think an important part of the Audain Professorship is to have a presence both in the community and across campus? “I really do,” he says. “I don’t find there’s a lot of true Northwest Coast representation in Fine Arts — there are people who study and teach it, but authentic Northwest Coast artists like myself are rare. Having people in those positions who can speak to that is important.”

Cook also feels it’s important to transcend academia’s traditional definitions. “There are no walls within our culture. I sat in a lot of meetings where people were saying, ‘We want to indigenize the university, how can we incorporate more indigeneity?’ But we don’t have walls between history and music and practice . . . if someone in the Audain position could keep that idea alive, it would be very beneficial.”

Cook (centre) at the opening of UVic’s Michael Williams building

Much like the bridges he builds with his art, Cook feels reaching new communities is an important part of his role as chief and educator.

“Overall, the Audain position gave me the opportunity to share a deeper, profound understanding with everyone — not just the art form, but where it comes from and what it’s about. You can see native art all over the place now, but there’s a deeper meaning to it . . . especially when you’re wanting to learn, to develop the skills.”