First Peoples House showcases indigenous artists with pop-up art show

There are few buildings that could double as a pop-up art gallery as beautifully as the First Peoples House at UVic.

The venue made for a perfect home for the stunning art on display last Thursday, Mar. 10, at the Indigenous Visual Arts Pop-Up Show — one of several initiatives the Native Students Union has hosted for Indigenous Resurgence Month.

The art on display in the Ceremonial Hall of the First Peoples House came entirely from indigenous artists. Jackson McDermott, an Anthropology and Indigenous Studies student from the Dene Nation and organizer of the art show, explains it’s important for the artists to see they’re not alone in making indigenous art.

“I’ve heard that sometimes it’s difficult being an indigenous artist, because a lot of the professors [in the department] are rooted in European forms of art. So there’s a little bit of disconnect there,” McDermott says. “[So] for these artists to meet each other and be supports for [each other] . . . [is] very important.”

Indigenous Resurgence Month is an NSU initiative designed to celebrate the indigenous community at UVic, and has now been running for several years. The month features events ranging from restorative yoga for indigenous students, to rock climbing, to creating care kits for local women in need.

“For as long as I have been a part of the NSU, we’ve been doing Indigenous Resurgence Week, but then last year we decided to do Indigenous Resurgence Month just to spread it out a little bit,” says McDermott. “It’s just an opportunity for the NSU to showcase different things within the indigenous community, whether it be academics or art, or poetry, or anything like that.”

Taryn Walker is a Coast Salish artist and Visual Arts student who participated in the pop-up art show; her video art piece Hairknots was projected onto the wall of the Ceremonial Hall. Walker is happy to be at a university with such a strong sense of unity between indigenous artists and indigenous students in general.

“I think [on] Vancouver Island and just [in] B.C. in general, our indigenous communities are really strong,” Walker says.

“Growing up, I didn’t really have that many opportunities to connect with other indigenous artists, or just [be a part of] an indigenous community, so it’s been really special to come to UVic . . . and make those connections,” says Walker, who moved to Victoria from her home in Revelstoke to attend UVic.

“[It’s been special to] just be able to talk with other indigenous artists about making art and identifying as indigenous artists, the different pros and cons of it, and moving through the world and working as an indigenous artist, and the problems that you can face.”

McDermott believes that the art show is another way of creating networks for indigenous students and artists.

“This is an opportunity to establish indigenous art, and for these artists to meet each other and be supports for themselves,” he says. “So I see it as very important.”

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