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Vancouver's Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

By Meaghen Ng
  Chief Jim Hart and son Carl are busy carving a Wasgo (sea wolf) into the red cedar pole entitled, "The Tribute Pole to Bill Reid and Charles Edenshaw." It's an apt moment at Vancouver, BC's new Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art; much of legendary Haida artist Reid's life was about mentoring budding artists.
     The late Doris Shadbolt, author, curator and a friend of Reid's, recalls in the book Bill Reid that at Reid's Pender Street studio there were always two rooms open for young Aboriginals to apprentice with the master. Hart was one of those apprentices. Both were related to Reid's mentor, master carver Charles Edenshaw, Hart's great-great grandfather and Reid's great-great uncle. Today, Hart is the new hereditary Chief Edenshaw. And while the walls are still bare, a lone painting of the eminent chief resides watchfully over what's next.
     The gallery opens May 2008, exactly a decade after Reid's death. Just steps from the Vancouver Art Gallery, it debuts with "Bill Reid: Master of Haida Art," works from the personal collection of Dr. Martine Reid-many never seen before in public.
     Reid, an artist and carver from Victoria, BC, is arguably credited with introducing the world to the native art of the Northwest Coast. "Innovation must be earned," says Bill Reid Gallery's spokesperson Mavis Dixon. Reid's legacy of infusing traditional art forms with modern ideas came from years studying traditional Haida expression.
     A bridge between the contemporary and traditional, the gallery reveals Reid's work in a modern context, on several sensory levels. It is a memorial to Reid and what he called the "well-made object." Gallery-goers are encouraged to interact with sculptures via audiovisual kiosks. Audiovisual installations retell the wildlife myths that inspired his work, some narrated by Reid himself.
     In a CBC interview, Reid (visibly suffering from Parkinson's disease) says: "I never set out to revive Haida culture. I was interested in the intricacies of the design. Much later on, I began to realize that this little handful of sea-hunters had something to say to the world at large."


Other Vancouver First Nations' art galleries

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery:
Housed in a historic warehouse space in Vancouver's fashion-and-arts Yaletown district, Coastal Peoples' rep for pushing the boundaries means you'll find a mix of Northwest Coast art from an up-and-coming generation. www.coastalpeoples.com/modules/shop

Douglas Reynolds Gallery:
Located in Vancouver's South Granville neighbourhood, or "Gallery Row," as the locals say, Douglas Reynolds shows past and present Northwest Coast Native art-wood carvings and jewellery from world-renowned and emerging Aboriginal artists. www.douglasreynoldsgallery.com

Eagle Spirit Gallery:
After noshing your way through Vancouver's gourmet paradise Granville Island, pay a visit to Eagle Spirit. Its collection of Northwest Coast Native and Inuit art reflects a contemporary approach to traditional design. www.eaglespiritgallery.com/home.html

Marion Scott Gallery:
Since 1975, the Marion Scott Gallery has showcased Inuit fine art, raising international awareness about the art of Canada's North from its gallery space in heritage Gastown. www.marionscottgallery.com

Museum of Anthropology:
Undergoing a $52 million renovation and expansion project, this institution's Great Hall-soaring with glass walls and filled with totem poles-is legendary. Before you start your tour of First Nations art in Vancouver, stop at the MOA, at the University of British Columbia, for a history lesson in Northwest Coast art. www.moa.ubc.ca

Spirit Wrestler Gallery:
Atop the cobblestone streets in Vancouver's Aboriginal art haven, Gastown, the Spirit Wrestler Gallery represents 400-plus First Nations artists, showcasing Northwest Coast, Inuit and Maori art, graphics, sculpture, jewellery and textiles. www.spiritwrestler.com

Meaghen Ng is a Vancouver, BC-based freelance writer. She has written for a Vancouver city guidebook on eating, drinking and shopping, and sounded off on the local fashion scene for Vancouver View magazine. Ng has a B.A. in sociology from the University of British Columbia and a certificate in magazine publishing from Capilano College in North Vancouver, BC.

Photo Credit & Article:
courtesy, Canadian Tourism Commission

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