Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Where to Find Native Art in Vancouver

Arts in Canada lists more than 100 contemporary native artists in British Columbia. Most of them from the Haida tribes of the West Coast. Their masks, sculptures, and original paintings can be found in Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and scattered around the whole province.

More than 3,000 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the coast of British Columbia developed artistic traditions that are heralded throughout the world for their imaginative and stylistic qualities.  The masks and totem poles of the Northwest Coast Aboriginal art powerfully impacted the work of major American abstract artists. It gave rise to a revival of craftsmanship on the NW Coast over the past thirty years and shaped the work of contemporary native artists.  Visitors will be introduced to the Northwest native art here:

Vancouver Intl. Airport
Just stepping out of an airplane at YVR, one will discover an impressive public collection of native art.  Exhibits display more than 180 sculptures, carvings, masks, poles, panels, paintings and weavings in the international terminal.  YVR's art exhibitions are located throughout the airport.
Vancouver’s Stanley Park

There are nine totem poles in Totem Park, just off the seawall at Brockton Point, carved between 1955 and 2009 by some of the province's most influential carvers. The totem poles represent a variety of First Nations, from the killer whale and Thunderbird of the Chief Wakas Kwakiutl pole to Norman Tait's Nisga'a beaver crest pole and Bill Reid's Haida mortuary pole.
Museum of Anthropology

The MOA, on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver, is the premier place to view Northwest Coast art and artifact collections.  MOA initiated native carving programs in the 1950s, restoring old poles and creating new ones.  Don't miss the stunning yellow cedar carving The Raven and the First Men by Haida artist Bill Reid, depicting the Haida creation story.

Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Center

This museum in Whistler joins the two First Nations in the region under one roof, with traditional art, craft and artifacts including cedar baskets, button blankets and massively carved spindle whorls depicting the history of weaving here. The SLCC Café features First Nations cuisine, from venison chili to bannock panini sandwiches.
Royal British Columbia Museum

The provincial museum in Victoria has a large collection of carvings, masks, artifacts and both historic and contemporary poles, some inside the museum building, some outdoors in Thunderbird Park.


Kitselas Canyon

This national historic site is another recreated village, complete with carved poles and longhouses, displays of carving and weaving, and tours for the public.
Tsimshian First Nations have occupied this site for more than 10,000 years. Kitselas Canyon is a stretch of the Skeena River in northwestern British Columbia, Canada.
‘Ksan Village Museum
A living museum and cultural center, this historical First Nations village in Hazelton is open for tours with local guides. Complete with several longhouses with decorated house fronts, totem poles, and artifacts, it offers a glimpse into early Gitxsan village life.

Museum of Northern B.C.

In Prince Rupert, you can see the work of many contemporary Haida and Tsimshian carvers, both in the stunning longhouse museum overlooking the waterfront and on street corners throughout the city.  It's here you'll find original poles carved by important artists like Freda Diesing and Dempsey Bob.  Visitors are met with the scent of cedar and the beauty of Northwest Coast architecture.  The massive cedar posts and beams are set off by large works of glass art.

Famous Canadian Artist Emily Carr 
She came to paint the totem poles of the northwest coastal people nearly a century ago.
The tradition of carving survived, despite nearly a century of suppression. In 1884, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald banned the potlatch feasts and dances, the center of the coastal peoples' unique social and legal system.  Many poles were removed, toppled, even burned, and the skill of carving such ceremonial articles all but disappeared.  By 1951, when the ban on the potlatch was finally lifted, only a few carvers remained.
History of Indigenous Art
The history of Indigenous art in Canada begins sometime during the last Ice Age between 80,000 and 12,000 years ago. To date, however, the oldest surviving artworks are datable to the last 5,000 years.  First Peoples of the West Coast did not see Europeans until the late 18th century. Decorative and representational carvings from the earliest periods have been found in the Lower Fraser region of British Columbia by archaeologists through excavations. The development of Indigenous art in Canada may be divided into three distinct periods: prehistoric art (much of the art has been lost), the contact, or "historic" art, and contemporary native art.  Read more about the native art of the NW Coast:
Olympic Installations

Artist Dean Heron's art was selected by the Vancouver Olympic Committee for the Cypress Mountain Olympic venue.  His massive installation – painted across 20 canvases and representing a huge snowboard decorated with historic paddle designs – is a permanent fixture at the ski resort which hosted 2010 Olympic freestyle and snowboard events.

Explore the work of Northwest Coast Native American Indian Artists
such as Bill Reid, Robert Davidson and Coast Salish and other First Nations. Don’t miss to visit Vancouver's most famous spot for First Nations art shopping and a must-see for any visitor to Vancouver, the two Coastal People Fine Art Galleries that are specialized in museum-quality, handcrafted artwork by aboriginal artists from B.C.'s Northwest Coast. 

The province of British Columbia is home to the highest diversity of First Nations societies in Canada, each with its own language, traditions, and history.  Aboriginal cultures are increasingly accessible to visitors, with growth in everything from Aboriginal-owned art galleries and cultural centers to First Nations-operated wilderness treks, wildlife viewing tours, and cultural experiences.
A growing number of Aboriginal-owned tourism operators are also encouraging visitors to enjoy BC's wilderness, wildlife, culture, and history from a First Nations point of view. Experiences range from paddling a traditional ocean-going canoe to seeking out the mysterious Kermode (Spirit) bear in the Great Bear Rainforest, from watching a dance performance to joining a generations-old purification ceremony.

Read more:
Coastal Peoples Gallery
Native Artists' Biographies
Hill's Native Art Gallery Nanaimo