Last year, the Campbell River Art Gallery (CRAG) launched its new Satellite Campus program, a series of barrier-free workshops developed and delivered by professional, Indigenous artists hailing from traditional territories around Northern Vancouver Island and the nearby Discovery Islands.
And now they are showing off the works produced during those workshops and celebrating the people and communities who took part in an exhibition entitled Distant Relatives.
“We wanted to provide opportunities for the folks in these communities to have access to contemporary professional art-making practices,” says CRAG executive director Sara Lopez Assu. “A lot of these communities will often have apprenticeship systems and mentorship systems that allow folks to lean into traditional art-making practices, while contemporary artists are generally moving to urban centres to practise their art. In fact, a lot of the artists we work with don’t live in-community. They live in the urban centres. So this was a great opportunity for them to go and work in-community and allow the contemporary cultural expressions of those communities to come out.”
Exhibiting the “artifacts” from these community workshops not only elevates the work produced, but initiates an important dialogue with the greater Campbell River community on the interests, values and concerns of these regions, Assu says.
The exhibition officially opens with a welcome and reception Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m., where the public can come learn more about the project and meet some of the artists involved. The exhibition will then be up in the Satellite gallery through Nov. 5.
“I hope people see this exhibition and get a better understanding of what these communities feel is important right now,” Assu says. “The workshops in Cape Mudge, for example, happened shortly after the discovery of the 215 graves in Kamloops and it was weighing heavily on that community. They wanted to do this workshop as an act of collective healing, not only for their youth, but also their elders and survivors. That’s something that belongs to them and is precious and we wanted to protect and hold space for. And now we’re holding space for the Campbell River community to come see it and gain a better understanding of how heavily it weighed on them and the healing journey they embarked on so that the general community can stand as allies and gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of colonization on these remote communities.”
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