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Artnership provides exposure for Indigenous artists

Indigenous artist Darin Corbiere with his piece ‘A view of the sun from a moon on Uranus.’ Bill Phillips photo

Most of us would likely be annoyed or upset if we spilled some ink.

For Darin Corbiere, spilling ink on a piece of wood he had originally thought he was going to use to build a boat, sent him down a different stream.

“The wood was just luck, fate, whatever,” he said. “I bought a bunch of wood thinking that I was going to build a big wooden boat. That plan failed, so I had a bunch of wood left over. I knocked over a bunch of ink on a chunk of white ash. It spread and caught the grains. I just started adding more, eventually it turned into art.”

That was almost four years ago and Corbiere has since produced about 350 pieces of art and his canvas is slats of eastern white ash. He uses alcohol ink and some highlighters which, under black light, will become fluorescent. And the art pieces are imbued with Corbiere’s sense of humour with titles such as “A view of the sun from a moon on Uranus,” and an old bald “as in going bald,” eagle.

But there is seriousness as well with pieces such as “Woman in the Water.

“She’s surfacing, letting go of things that weren’t hers to carry and that allows her to come to the top,” he said.

His art is part of his letting go, as well, as it is part of his healing journey.

“As I let things go, the dark things, the bright and beautiful things came out,” he said. “That is expressed in the art work.”

In the last year or so, he he has added a wrinkle to some of his artistic wood creations by putting art on both sides of the wood. His work is available on cards as well. In addition, he writes graphic novels which are turned into comic books.

He also took part in Artnership last week, showing his work at the Visitor Information Centre.

For the third summer in a row, Tourism Prince George and the Community Arts Council are celebrating an ‘Artnership.’

The Artnership program, which began in 2017, showcases local Indigenous artists in the Prince George Visitor Centre. The artists set up an onsite studio and spend a morning making or participating in a piece of art. The program gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the city’s art scene and also about Indigenous culture.

“This is a great opportunity,” Corbiere said. “You have people from all over the world who get to see your art. Whether they purchase something or not, is not that important. The fact is they see it, they like it, they’re going to pick up a card, they’re going to tell other people and maybe other people that they know will contact me.”

He is a member of Northern Indigenous Artists Collective which helps Indigenous artists.

“We try to help Indigenous artists get into venues such as this,” he said.

In 2017 and 2018, local artist Tom Mowatt set up his painting supplies and enjoyed sharing his culture and experiences with travellers from across the globe.

“It wasn’t like work at all,” said Mowatt. “It was more talking than painting. It was such a reward to communicate with so many people.”

Mowatt’s completed pieces are still on display in the visitor centre.

Another Artnership participant and local drum maker, Len Paquette, made lasting memories for VIA Rail passengers bound for Prince Rupert last year when he drummed is newly completed drum up the aisles of the train.

“It’s so exciting to see the faces of visitors when they get to speak to an artist and even participate in making a piece of art,” said Erica Hummel, CEO of Tourism Prince George. “This is an exciting program that really enhances the visitor experience in our community. It create such a positive perception of Prince George.”

Six artists have signed on to the program this year. They will be at Tourism Prince George every consecutive Thursday from 7-11 a.m.

Schedule for the Artnership program is:

  • July 4 – Shirley Babcock, painting
  • July 11 – Carla Joseph, painting
  • July 18 – Len Paquette, carving
  • July 25 – Tom Mowatt, painting
  • August 1 – Jennifer Pighin, drumming

“The Community Arts Council values the opportunity that Tourism Prince  George provices to our artists in connecting them with visitors to our city, many of whom are highly interests in experiencing local and Indigenous artistry,” said Lisa Redpath, program manager at Studio 2880. “We had great success with this program last year and all of the participating artists found it to be quite rewarding. This really helps us start putting Prince George on the cultural map.”

The Community Arts council undertakes similar programs with the Prince George Airport and City Hall.

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