On September 23, 2021, two art classes lead by Ms. Underwood and Ms. Karimi had the privilege of taking a field trip to the West Vancouver Art Museum to experience Balanced Forms, an exhibition created by local Coast Salish artists, Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) and his sons, James and Austin Harry. With Canada’s national Truth and Reconciliation day on September 30th, the students had the chance to learn more about indigenous artwork and truly think about the importance of this day. Xwalacktun is a local artist who has previously worked as a cultural instructor for school districts on the lower mainland, working with students to create carvings and art pieces to display in their schools. He has created multiple pieces that were previously displayed inside of schools that were featured in the gallery. If you looked closely at those pieces you could see pen marks and scratches on the wood that naturally would have come from the younger students at these schools. Instead of being mad or disappointed that his art is slightly altered, Xwalacktun simply believes that the art takes a life of its own once he completes his desired intentions and the pen marks take a part in telling the story of where it has been.
From a young age, James Harry learnt the ways of first nations forms and design, and from there he has developed his own techniques based on the traditional foundation of his heritage. He combines West Coast formlines with modern media and other techniques to push the boundaries of First Nations cultural traditions and change the way people think of traditional art. The Harry family has trained in numerous art and design settings and together they have created an outstanding art exhibit that students in our school were lucky to attend.
This exhibition was an incredible experience with very moving artwork and stories. Unfortunately the exhibition has passed however Ms. Karimi’s Photo 1 class has taken some beautiful photographs to share with the Collingwood community and a public art installation entitled “Spirit of the Mountain” by Xwalacktun can be found at Ambleside beach. The piece contains numerous indigenous symbols including two upright paddles to represent mutual respect and a Thunderbird head to symbolize the Squamish Nation.
I encourage everyone to continue learning about indigenous peoples and cultures. The website linked below is a great resource to get started.
(The photos featured are from grade 11 student Nicky Sun.)