Indigenous Portfolio Day: May 26

On Friday, May 26th find inspiration, gain insight, and improve your portfolio with the current Indigenous faculty and professionals at Emily Carr. ECU is pleased to host the first annual Indigenous Portfolio Day on the traditional unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil Waututh. This is an opportunity for Indigenous creators, designers, and artists interested in pursuing post-secondary through an art + design lens to have their work reviewed by current Indigenous faculty and professionals at ECU.
For the day of the event bring any work that you have, this can include drawings, paintings, digital/ graphic design work, zines, carvings, jewelry, and beadwork. You will bring these to share with our Indigenous faculty and Indigenous staff for review, from here you will receive feedback and gain insight into how to have a strong foundation for when you submit your application.
Register through Eventbrite:

Kajola Morewood Fosters Community Connections as AGP’s Newest Manager

Photo by Perrin Grauer

Article by Perrin Grauer

The artist, educator and information services specialist aims to engage with the full spectrum of how Indigenous identities and creative practices are formed.

For years before landing a job as manager at the Aboriginal Gathering Place (AGP) this past November, Kajola Morewood (BFA 2011) had wanted to work there.

The artist, educator and ECU alum worked in several departments at Emily Carr over 25 years. More recently, she worked as Indigenous initiatives and services librarian at Okanagan College. But she always remembered her first interactions with Brenda Crabtree, director of Aboriginal Programs at ECU and Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Initiatives.

“She was so welcoming,” Kajola tells me. “She was always saying, come into this space, learn more about your culture. Because I didn’t really have a lot of that. So, I feel like she kind of changed my life.”

Kajola, whose birth mother is Inuit, grew up in a settler family between Southern Alberta and BC. She had little understanding of Inuit culture as a child. What little she knew, she learned through videos, books or presentations in school.

Brenda encouraged Kajola to foster her curiosity about her culture. In Kajola’s early days as a staff member in Student Services, Brenda helped her secure time off for a trip along the coast of Baffin Island. For the first time, Kajola saw landscapes like her mother might have known growing up in Kuujjuarapik. She also met some of the people who lived there.

In one community, Kajola visited a school gym where students were hip-hop dancing and eating country food. One of the students approached her and said he and his classmates thought she looked Inuit.

“I said, yeah, I am. He said, where do you live? I said Vancouver, and he was like, what are you doing there?” Kajola recalls.

“It was pretty cool to be recognized in that way. Because that doesn’t happen so much here. So, having the opportunity to make that trip was pretty incredible.”

This experience was an early introduction to the power of reconnecting with community.

The aspiration to share this experience with others has defined Kajola’s work. And it has deepened her exploration of the many ways Indigenous people encounter — and bridge — versions of the cultural disconnection she experienced.

Read the full article on ECU News.

An Inuit beaded necklace made by Kajola on display at the Aboriginal Gathering Place. (Photo by Perrin Grauer)

‘Groundbreaking’ Scholarship Supports Indigenous Designers in Type-Related Disciplines

Designer and ECU faculty member Leo Vicenti teaches typography and type design at ECU. (Photo by Perrin Grauer / Emily Carr University)

By Perrin Grauer

Designer and ECU faculty member Leo Vicenti helped lead the development of the scholarship which aims to support Indigenous voices in the field of design.

A new scholarship led by the Type Directors Club (TDC) will support Indigenous designers in typography, type design and linguistic work.

Designer and ECU faculty member Leo Vicenti helped lead the scholarship’s development.

“The Ezhishin scholarship is groundbreaking,” he says. “Our hope is to acknowledge and respect the spiritual life of Indigenous languages, and support the empowerment of the linguistic diversity of this continent, which has historically underrepresented Indigenous worldviews.”

The TDC announced the Google-funded scholarship during its first Ezhishin conference in November. Ezhishin takes its name from the Ojibwe word for “s/he leaves a mark.” The event is billed as the “first-ever conference dedicated to Native North American typography.”

Leo and Ksenya Samarskaya, managing director at the TDC, coordinate the scholarship program.

“There are few Native American type designers operating today,” the TDC says in a statement. Meanwhile, “much of the type used by Native practitioners [is] designed by non-Natives.”

Leo adds that the Ezhishin scholarship fills this long-overlooked gap in the design world. Creating financial support for Indigenous designers in type-related disciplines will help Indigenous voices flourish in the design field.

Read the full article on ECU News.

Animated Film Explores Environmental Crisis Through Indigenous Storytelling

Frankie Mc Donald Lawa7 003[image courtesy of Frankie McDonald]

Originally posted on ECU News + Events

A new animated video by artist Frankie McDonald invites audiences to explore the relationship between colonialism and the urgent environmental issues of our time through the story of a young girl and a magical salmon.

Titled Láwa7, the video is currently playing on the outdoor Urban Screen at Emily Carr University (ECU) as part of the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Program, curated and presented by the Libby Leshgold Gallery.

Láwa7 uses computer animation to bring traditional Northwest Coast formline artwork into a 3D environment. The fantastical characters, compelling narrative and gorgeous visuals provide an accessible way to engage young people and families in conversations about conservation and Indigenous storytelling.

Read the full article on the ECU News + Events page.

Recollections and Reflections to the Sharing Circle: Water

Recollections and Reflections to the Sharing Circle: Water with Aaron Nelson-Moody/Splash (Tawx’sin Yexwulla), Meagan Innes and Jamie Thomas held in the Aboriginal Gathering Place, March 3, 2022. 

It was an incredible sharing circle with three amazing cultural keepers. I listened to each share their knowledge of the site where Emily Carr University’s building sits before it was filled in, when the tide flowed.

I know many of our AGP talks and circles are not recorded for various reasons. I also believe in witnessing and oral knowledge sharing practices. This is the reason I approached Laura Kozak and Pat Vera to write their recollections and reflections of this sharing circle. It always amazes me to see diversity of the way in which knowledge is witnessed. Please enjoy the writings.

Click individual images to see them full size or see them all together: Pat Vera and Laura Kozak’s responses.



Nicole Johnston Strengthens her Cultural Roots with the AGP

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Nicole Johnston in the Aboriginal Gathering Place in February, 2022. (Photo by Perrin Grauer / Emily Carr University)

by Perrin Grauer

The artist, ECU student and Aboriginal Programs facilitator reflects on her commitment to learning, teaching, history, and to the contemporary work of Aboriginal material practice.

When Nicole Johnston walked into the Aboriginal Gathering Place (AGP) on her very first day as a student at Emily Carr University, she wasn’t even sure what she was looking for or who she would meet.

Nicole, who is from the Squamish Nation, says she’d had little firsthand experience with Aboriginal material practice or culturally specific education.

“We only learned about Indigenous history twice during my whole K to 12 education, and I felt that. I felt like, ‘I need that in my schooling experience.’” she tells me. “Even in my nation, we had a lot offered to us, but I still felt like there could always be more. Growing up, I didn’t feel like I knew my culture as much as people around expected me to, so I was eager to keep learning here.”

Full article here:

House Post Carved by Xwalacktun Nears Completion

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Xwalacktun at work on his house post in the Aboriginal Gathering Place. (Photo by/courtesy Connie Watts)

by Perrin Grauer

The master carver and Order of British Columbia recipient has been working on the post for months at the Aboriginal Gathering Place with the help of Indigenous students.

Award-winning artist, educator and master carver Xwalacktun (alumni 1982) was nearing completion on a house post, created in collaboration with Indigenous students at Emily Carr University, when he took a break on a winter Monday to talk about the project.

Xwalacktun, who is of Squamish and Kwakwak’wakw ancestry, has been working on the post in the Aboriginal Gathering Place since the summer. The design, he tells me, pays homage to the work of the late Chief Joe Mathias — a revered carver, activist and community leader, born in the late 19th century.

“My mother reminded me that when she was five years old, she used to look out the window and see him carving in this style,” Xwalacktun says. “She’s going to be 92 this year. So, this is quite a long while ago that this style was being carved. I took Chief Joe Mathias’ forms, his designs, but I did it my own way.”

Full article here:

Totem Pole by Dempsey Bob, Stan Bevan Arrives at ECU

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A work crew carefully cranes a 25+ foot-tall totem pole carved by Dempsey Bob and Stan Bevan over the railing of the outdoor area on Level 2 of Emily Carr University in summer, 2021. (Photo by Perrin Grauer / Emily Carr University)

by Perrin Grauer

The arrival of the pole, titled Northern Wolves, is the latest phase in the Aboriginal Gathering Place’s Community Totem Pole Project, which brings together Tahltan-Tlingit and Māori master carvers.

A totem pole more than 25 feet tall was delivered in dramatic fashion to the Aboriginal Gathering Place (AGP) at Emily Carr University this summer.

Titled Northern Wolves, the pole began its journey near Terrace, BC, where master carvers Dempsey Bob (Tahltan-Tlingit) and Stan Bevan (Tahltan-Tlingit) had been working on it for over two years.

Upon arriving at ECU, it was uncrated while still aboard the truck, and then craned up to the outdoor area on the second floor of the university.

Full article here:

ECU’s 15 Most-Read Stories in 2021

Top Stories2021

By Perrin Grauer

In a year that followed one of the strangest and most gruelling in a generation, your favourite stories focused on themes of community, empowerment and resilience.

No. 15 | ECU Student on Frontlines of Fairy Creek Protests says Blockades are a Battleground for a Sustainable Future
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The fight to save Vancouver Island’s ancient trees reveals an existential conflict that must be resolved to foster hope for a better future, says the Two Spirit artist. Full story here:

No. 13 | Eve Tuck Helps Students “Become More Like Themselves”
Eve Tuck HDD
The work of the writer, educator, researcher and 2021 Emily Carr University Honorary Doctorate recipient focuses on Indigenous social thought, and the ways it can be “engaged to create more fair and just social policy, more meaningful social movements, and robust approaches to decolonization.” Full story here:

No. 12 | Land-Based Design Course Uses ECU Campus as Test Case in Decolonial Wayfinding Project
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“Land-based” design and teaching emphasize local histories, relationships to place, and Indigenous sovereignty. Full story here:

No. 11 | Preston Buffalo is Taking the Power BackPreston Buffalo 006 ECU 2021 05 13 PBPGOn the occasion of his first solo exhibition, the iconoclastic artist reflects on his deep, defiant art practice and his journey to becoming a student at ECU. Full story here:

No. 4 | Emily Carr University Appoints Carleen Thomas as Chancellor
Carleen Thomas appointed Chancellor of Emily Carr University“I am honoured to have been asked to become the Chancellor of Emily Carr University,” Ms. Thomas, currently the Special Projects Manager for the Treaty, Lands and Resources department at the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the first Indigenous person to hold the position of Chancellor at ECU, said at the time. “I’m passionate about education, as a former teacher and a life-long learner. I look forward to taking on this important role and working with the university’s remarkable students, staff and faculty.” Full story here: