Travel Blog

27 Jul

Seeking out the art of Haida Gwaii in Vancouver

Bill Reid: The Raven and the First Men, 1990 22k gold Photo credit:  Kenji Nagai

Bill Reid: The Raven and the First Men, 1990 22k gold Photo credit: Kenji Nagai

Have you ever fell so head over gumboots for a place that you want to keep returning? I feel that way about Vancouver, but recently I’ve also fallen for another rainy, tree and beach-fringed destination: Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii is a brilliant, evergreen archipelago located in Northern British Columbia over 170 kilometres west of Prince Rupert. For the last two summers I’ve made the journey to Haida Gwaii to explore endless beaches, feast on seafood and poke around numerous art galleries and studios.

This summer there will be no such journey across Hecate Strait, however I have developed some coping mechanisms. To help navigate the waves of Haida Gwaii nostalgia, I’ve turned to scoping out the art of Haida Gwaii in Vancouver. Below you’ll find a list of spots I frequent when I’m missing the misty isles.

Bill Reid Gallery – Probably the most famous of Haida Gwaii’s artists, Bill Reid is the carver of the famous The Raven and the First Men that graced Canada’s 20 dollar bills. Nestled near Cathedral Place on Hornby/West Georgia Streets, the Bill Reid Gallery is open 11-5 Wednesday to Sunday.  Reserve about an hour to wander through the compact gallery to peruse the argillite, gold, silver and bronze works completed by Reid throughout his career. After a gallery visit, I almost always stop at the gift shop featuring contemporary jewellery, blankets and carvings by Haida artists such as Gwaii Edenshaw.  Annual membership fees for the gallery are a steal at $30 per year.

Museum of Anthropology Village Photo credit: Goh Iromoto

Museum of Anthropology Village Photo credit: Goh Iromoto

Museum of Anthropology – One of Haida Gwaii’s trademarks is the plethora of intricate wood carvings found there. Poles, bentwood boxes, longhouses pepper the islands. One of my favorite spots to admire Haida carvings is at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Just behind the museum are replicas of two longhouses and poles. Inside the museum, there are a number of poles from the 1800s depicting family crests. Take your own Haida carving tour to see the over 1600 Haida artifacts the museum has in their collection.

Michael Nichol Yahgulanaas public art – Located at Kensington Park on the corner of King Edward and Knight Streets, Abundance Fenced was erected in 2011. The 42 metre, steel public art sculpture is a mix of traditional Haida art motifs and graphic animation, a fusion that Yahgulanaas is known for. Author of several Haida art/Japanese manga graphic novels and a celebrated member of the ‘new wave’ of Haida artists, Yahgulanaas evokes salmon, ships and the movement in Abundance. According to the Yahgulanaas’ artist statement the installation also “depicts two sets of stylized whales facing opposite directions with their tale flukes meeting in the centre.”

Vancouver Art Gallery – In 2010, Jim Hart, an Old Massett-based carver began working on The Dance Screen (The Scream Too) – a large red cedar sculpture that depicts a bear mother, an eagle with frogs coming out of its ears, killer whales, a beaver and a raven, all surrounded by salmon. I was lucky enough to see the sculpture during it’s beginnings in July 2011. When it came to Vancouver earlier this year, I was stoked to see the finished product in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery – With two locations in Yaletown and Gastown, Coastal Peoples specializes in high-end Aboriginal art. Their current exhibition Niijangaa: Haida Masterworks II features masks, baskets, rattles, pendants, bentwood boxes and other items. Haida artists Christian White, Robert Davidson, Jim Hart, Jay Simeon, Isabel Rorick and others are on display now through the end of August.

What is your favourite piece of Haida Art in Vancouver? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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