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Culture clash to create moving, still-life mural

A unique youth art project that involves sharing of cultures between urban West Vancouver art students and teen artists from a traditional First Nations community on the B.C. coast has won the support of the federal government.

Students from West Vancouver secondary and from the Gitga’at Nation in Hartley Bay on B.C.’s northern coast will work together to create a large movable art mural which will be exhibited in both northern B.C. and West Vancouver later this year.

Ottawa has awarded $49,000 to the project and the West Vancouver Community Foundation is supporting it with $10,000.

Students from both West Vancouver and Hartley Bay were on hand Feb. 27 to celebrate the funding announcement at the West Vancouver Museum and Archives.

The project, which when completed, will consist of eight four-foot by eight-foot panels, was the idea of West Vancouver Secondary art teacher and school-based ArtWest45 program director Jackie Wong.

The process of making the art together will be just as important as the finished project, said Wong.

Students will travel to each other’s communities to learn about their home cultures during the making of the art.

Hartley Bay students took part in a welcome breakfast and attended a Canucks game before starting on the art project last week.

“Some of the students have never flown in a jet before,” said Hartley Bay school principal Cam Hill, who was on hand with the students for the funding announcement Feb. 27.

Hill said part of the goal for him is to show his students “what the outside world looks like” beyond their small community and introduce them to the future opportunities that await there.

At the same time, he said, it’s important for students to know where they come from. That’s something his students will be showing to the West Vancouver students when they visit Hartley Bay – focussing on traditional ways and the community’s relationship to the land.

Hill said he hopes to show the West Vancouver students some traditional gathering food in the wild when they visit later in the spring.

“We are exchanging art and we are exchanging culture,” he said.

West Vancouver artist Cori Creed is helping the students with the creative process and with production and installation of the mural.

The mural will be on display at the West Vancouver Museum and Archives at the beginning of the summer, and will be featured at the Harmony Arts Festival as well as shown at the University of Northern B.C.

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