Connie Watts on Fluidity in Practice and Creativity Without Borders

Makola 2020


By Perrin Grauer

Posted on August 17, 2020 | Updated August 17, 2020, 12:18PM

Connie’s interdisciplinary creative career demonstrates a sustained focus on interconnectedness, rather than on difference.

Myriad possibilities are opened up by rethinking — or unthinking — the relationship between the categories of art and design, says Connie Watts, Associate Director of the Aboriginal Gathering Place at Emily Carr University.

Connie sees creative practice, whether her own — which includes a recent project working with M’akola Development Services on a new suite of offices and design installations in Langford, BC — or anyone else’s in a more holistic way.

“‘Art’ and ‘artist’ are very colonial terms. Same with ‘design’ — a very colonial term,” she says.

“I think of my practice as creating access. Creating access to spaces that work well; creating access to a story or a knowledge-base through art; or creating access to our own languages. I think my approach will always be, and always is, creating access.”

This shift in how creative work is perceived and performed is a part of decolonial practice. It’s also a powerful lens through which the interactions between spaces, objects and people can be seen anew — to the benefit of the communities whose lives are lived within those spaces and around those objects.

Full article by Perrin Grauer : 


My Imperfect Journey

To our AGP Community,

I will begin by thanking Mimi for her heartfelt Open Letter to the Emily Carr Community and advocating kindness and compassion towards each other during these difficult times of uncertainty. I was inspired by her unwavering commitment to respect and reciprocity.

Chief Leon Shenandoah words and actions have influenced my imperfect journey to become a good human being on this path called life.

“Everybody is on a path. What you think about the most tells you which path you are on. The best path is the spiritual one. It’s the only one that helps you become a human being”

We are busy preparing the Aboriginal Gathering Place for accommodating new and returning Aboriginal students in September (adhering to provincial COVID protocols) and it has been challenging to maintain our cultural connections while being physically disconnected. I am encouraged that my Indigenous knowledge continually reminds me that our spiritual, cultural and physical world are all inextricably interconnected.

I would like to acknowledge the support and leadership of our local Indigenous healers, cultural advisors/leaders and knowledge keepers who are deeply connected to this land. Laura Wee Lay Laq is a graduate of Emily Carr (Vancouver School of Art) and continues to provide ongoing support to the AGP. Prior to the new campus construction Laura blessed and cleansed the land to provide a cultural foundation for the work being done within our institution. Thus…we are accountable to the land for our words and actions.

Eugene Harry is a healer and spiritual guide and has supported us in moving forward in a path focused on “good hearts and good mind”. Xwalacktun is also a graduate of Emily Carr and his son James is a graduate as well. In recent weeks we have connected with all of them for their ongoing guidance, strength and wisdom. Their guidance and support inspired me to share our teachings and protocols deeply rooted in our current and ancestral connection to this land.

In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the destructive actions and policies of the past and aspire to do better in the future. Often it’s as much about unlearning as it is about learning. I am often frustrated with the pace of institutional change but I’m also encouraged by the number of initiatives and projects we have accomplished and are working on. I believe that collaboration, collegiality and commitment can create an environment of transformational change. While we cannot escape or deny wounds along the way we can move forward in the spirit of reconciliation.

In a recent essay I wrote titled What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (published by the Or Gallery, Dana Claxton, editor) I share my 21-year educational, cultural and artistic journey at Emily Carr University. In it I share my strengths and weaknesses and more importantly my personal family history of Residential School trauma including the death my father’s sisters, Gladys and Margaret. The ancestral teachings I carry with me are from our beloved matriarch Thiapan who remains the strength of our family long after her passing in 1973 as well as my father Nekastte who was one of Thaipan’s seventeen children. It is an important protocol for me to share my ancestral roots. It holds me accountable to my family cultural teachings and responsibilities of perpetuating and honouring traditional knowledge in a productive, meaningful way. I am continually learning new ways to move forward within the context of working within institutional procedural and policy driven frameworks. It takes patience and resilience…and is often exhausting but I remain committed to the voices of our ancestors.

Activism and persistence are important methods of facilitating meaningful change within our academy and I believe it can be and should be done in a respectful thoughtful exchange. I don’t always get it right but it is my intention to apply the basic tenets of respect and reconciliation as I continue on my imperfect journey to become a good human. Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation work continues to evolve and move forward at Emily Carr.

I end my essay with a quote by Rumi – Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there…

For me…our Emily Carr community is that field and I would like to meet you there.


Brenda Crabtree (Xyolholemo:t)
Proud member of the Spuzzum Band (Nlaka’pamux Nation)
Proud daughter of Nekastte and granddaughter of Thiapan

Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.
It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice,
the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer,
the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight
but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice.
It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both
the oppressed and oppressors free.”

Shane Claborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (2010)

Brenda Crabtree (Xyolholemo:t) MA (she/her)
Director, Aboriginal Programs + Special Advisor To The President On Indigenous Initiatives
Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Emily Carr University is situated on unceded, traditional and ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.

An Open letter to the Emily Carr Community

Dr. Mimi Gellman, 2020-2021 Indigenous Teaching Fellow

I am writing this message as an offering to the Emily Carr Community. This past year has been like no other. We have survived a fire, numerous snowstorms and storms of the head and heart. We have engaged with each other and debated in hallways and stairwells and classrooms, in labs and in crits and we have learned about each other’s subjectivities and the ways in which members of our community have been diminished and oppressed. And then there was covid with its attendant isolation, fears and anxieties and precarity about the future. All of this has contributed to an intensity of emotion and affect the likes of which our generation has never before experienced. We are all coping with grief and loss and the uncertainty that comes with the unknown…with not knowing what kind of new world will emerge.

And here is the magnificent opportunity that awaits us…we have the possibility of envisioning a new paradigm, a new world, a new way of being and doing.

The recent petition penned by an anonymous group of Emily Carr students and alumna under the mantle of the Anti-Racist Initiative has called in many places for the Indigenization of Emily Carr. I believe in the inexorable advancement of Indigenization and have dedicated much of my research, my energies and my engagements at ECU towards achieving this ambition. In my considered opinion, the tone and spirit of the petition did not realize its intended objective. I invite you to consider a different approach. If Emily Carr University is truly sincere in realizing this goal of Indigenization and not merely paying lip service, we are obliged individually and collectively to embody and express Indigenous values and ideals as we work together, envision, and plan a good way forward. The first Indigenous tenets to consider are respect and reciprocity, respect for our mother the earth, respect for our other than human relations, respect towards one another and respect towards our elders. The next Indigenous value is hospitality. This means that we meet each other and engage with each other with openness, with a generosity of spirit, in a spirit of hospitality. As Indigenous peoples we accept and embrace difference within our own communities, and this includes those that disagree with us, have different habits or different world views. We believe in the strength and the importance of building community, and understand that we only survive and flourish when our whole community is flourishing. We learn from each other through modelling right action and observing those knowledge keepers who have gained expertise through years and years of doing. We honour our knowledge keepers.

And this leads me to ask, what kind of world do we want to build? How do we want to engage with each other? How do we include each other …even the quiet ones, even the fearful, the humble, even the ones with no words. What is your vision for the world that you want to create, for the school that you want to learn within, teach within, for the ways that you long for?

This new world does not begin after our needs are met it begins with the quality of our intention, the nature of our engagement and the field of vision within which all things reside and from which all things emerge. It will take great self reflexivity “from all of us” in order not to replicate the colonial strategy of divide and conquer. We cannot afford to be divisive and punitive. There is no time for this if we want to move forward in a good way and begin to achieve our goals, now.

Let us begin by extending kindness and compassion towards each other and by demonstrating the ethos that we are seeking. I send this to you because I believe in us, I believe in this place of learning and most of all I believe that together we can create an extraordinary place for us to grow and flourish as human beings. We CAN be the change.

With respect,

Dr. Mimi Gellman
Associate Professor, Faculty of Culture +Community
emily carr university of art + design

Aboriginal Gathering Place Creates Material Practice Wellness Kits for Indigenous Students

Bringing together an extraordinary diversity of materials, the kits will help sustain cultural connection and creativity during the pandemic and beyond.

With pandemic restrictions only gradually beginning to lift in B.C., the Aboriginal Gathering Place at Emily Carr University has been assembling Material Practice Wellness kits to send to Indigenous community members.

Led by Brenda Crabtree, Director of the AGP and Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Initiatives, and AGP Associate Director Connie Watts, the project is a way to engage remotely with community members, and sustain connection during the first phase of provincial reopening.

“We are targeting the kits for the Aboriginal students first, and depending on how many are left we will be including Aboriginal staff and faculty,” says Connie.

“The kits are a cultural connection to the materials and to the land.”

Material Practice Wellness Kit1


Materials on hand at the AGP include a selection of beads, natural and dyed caribou hair for tufting, hide rattle kits (cut rattle shaped hide, sinew for the seam and wooden dowel for the handle), interfacing and felt for beading, porcupine quills, leather and beading needles, scissors, tanned fish skins, tanned beaver tails, smoke tanned moose hide, seal skin, tanned hide, earring and necklace clasps, key ring, larger glass beads, horse hair, feathers, shimmering abalone buttons and thread.

Full article by Perrin Grauer :

Photo by Perrin Grauer / Emily Carr University of Art + Design

COVID-19: Financial Assistance

As our community works together to meet these extraordinary challenges, we want to ensure you are aware of the programs that are available to help those facing financial hardship.Emergency bursaries for ECU students impacted by COVID-19 are available through the Emily Cares program. Scroll down to find out how to apply.

Through the Emily Cares Student Emergency Fund, the university will provide up to $200 to students in urgent financial need.

These non-repayable bursaries are to help cover essential living expenses and can provide a modest buffer while you seek additional sources of support.

Emily Cares bursaries are available for domestic and international students, whether enrolled in a degree program or a Continuing Studies Certificate program.

Learn more and apply online. 

Government Assistance for Students

Emergency Bursary Funding for BC Residents
The Province of British Columbia has made available emergency funding for both full-time and part-time, currently registered domestic students that are BC residents. This is non-repayable funding and eligibility will depend on each applicant’s unique situation. Please note that international and out of province students will not qualify for funding from this resource.

See our Emergency Bursary Funding for BC Residents page to download an application form.

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for Students
On April 22, 2020, the federal government announced an expansion of the CERB program to capture post-secondary students who may be struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Students will be eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August
  • That sum can go up to $1,750 if the student is taking care of someone or has a disability.
  • The benefit is also available to students who have jobs but are making less than $1,000 a month.
  • Additionally, students who volunteer for the fight against COVID-19 over the summer will be paid between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the hours they work.

Visit the federal government’s how-to page for details on when to apply, how to apply, and who is eligible.

Additional Benefits for Post-Secondary Students
On April 22, 2020, the federal government announced the following:

  • A doubling of student grants for eligible students — up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students.
  • Raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided through the Canada student loans program in 2020-2021 to $350 from $210.
  • More than $75 million in additional supports for Indigenous post-secondary students.
  • Another $291 million for federal granting councils to extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships and supplement existing federal research grants.

Details on how these programs will be delivered (including how to apply) will be posted as soon as they are available.

Cover Image: Surviving Covid-19, Ruth Cuthand. Beadwork

Lindsay McIntyre in Capture Photo Fest

The exhibition features outtakes from Lindsay’s films, mounted into lightboxes.

New work by Lindsay McIntyre, film artist and Assistant Professor of Film + Screen Arts at Emily Carr University, is currently collected in a solo exhibition at Marion Scott Gallery, in partnership with Capture Photography Festival.

The show, entitled Lindsay McIntyre: the tool of the tools, features outtakes from Lindsay’s films, mounted into lightboxes.

“Hands are the tool of tools,” Lindsay says in her exhibition statement.

“They represent work and time. They tell stories. They are the record of our lives. They represent guilt and things unsaid. They dismiss, threaten, summon, feed, and signal friendship and love. They are how a mother shows love to her child.”

Lindsay, who is of Inuk/settler Scottish descent, draws a line between her ongoing formal inquiries, and the particular resonance her subject holds for Inuit communities and individuals.

“For Inuit, hands and the tools they make have always been a concrete part of life,” she continues, noting how her formal concerns as a filmmaker work in concert with that textual focus.

“These film frames and extracts from a decade of film work bring to light the interplay between surface and subject, frame and content and shed light on the recurrent depiction of hands in my body of film works. Working primarily with high-contrast black and white 16mm film, these images stem from a series of motion picture works produced between 2005-2013. The bounding box of the 16mm film frame enters the picture, normally withheld from view; it sees light at last.”

In its own exhibition statement, the Marion Scott Gallery’s spotlights this ongoing, twofold inquiry — into both subject and form — in Lindsay’s work:

“Much of McIntyre’s extensive catalogue represents a parallel investigation into her personal identity and family history as well as celluloid itself, its processes and associated mechanisms—manipulating the various steps in the hand-developing process of 16mm film and being the “one-woman machine” responsible for every role behind the camera. McIntyre’s richly textured, grainy, or diaphanous imagery is more visual art than cinema, with marks and signature characteristics showing the hand of the artist as much one would expect to see in a carving or painting.”

Because of COVID-19, Marion Scott Gallery held a virtual opening for the show in early April. Lindsay notes that video tours of the exhibition are still accessible via the gallery’s Instagram. A selection of works from the show are also available for viewing on Capture Photo Festival’s website.

Full article by Perrin Grauer:

Tsēmā Igharas longlisted for Sobey Art Award

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada announced changes to the Sobey Art Award program for 2020.

The award program announced on April 15, 2020 that it was cancelling the selection of a five artist shortlist, the annual shortlist exhibition, the final winner announcement gala and the International Residencies Program. This year, each of the 25 artists on the jury-selected longlist will be awarded $25,000 instead of the previous programming.

Emily Carr University alumni were among the longlist including Tsēmā Igharas (BFA 2011). “I’m in shock and incredibly honoured,” said Tsēmā. “This announcement to restructure the Sobey Art Award is a blessing to all the artists on the longlist and I am grateful to share this gift with them.”

Tsēmā’s practice uses Potlatch methodology to create conceptual artwork connecting materials to mine sites and bodies to the land. She received the Emily Award in 2018.

“Łān Mēduh (Tāłtān for much thanks) to Natasha Chaykowski for the nomination,” she continued, “I want to thank the Sobey Art Award and National Gallery of Canada for supporting the artists on this list and the arts industry in Canada. This action is a microcosm of hope and love for the arts and beyond. Congratulations to all my fellow artists on the longlist as well.”

Klatle-Bhi March 11

Aboriginal Gathering Place Speaker Series
We are very pleased to present artist Klatle-Bhi!

Please join us at the Aboriginal Gathering Place on
Wednesday, March 11 at 11:30-12:30pm

Klatle-Bhi (pronounced “Cloth-Bay”) was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia in 1966. He began his life as an artist studying the works of his ancestors featured in museums and galleries. Klatle- Bhi spent many hours with artists Beau Dick, Wayne Alfred, Wade Baker and Rick Harry, absorbing their understanding and knowledge of native culture.

In his carving, which he has evolved over 25 years, Klatle-Bhi is committed to the spiritual and cultural expression of his ancestors. Many of his carvings express his own personal and spiritual journey through life. Klatle-Bhi has developed a style of carving which is unique and distinctive. It is his goal to achieve the highest level of craftsmanship and artistry that this cultural medium will allow. He believes that his journey as an artist has just begun.

Klatle-Bhi comes from a very traditionally rooted family where his Squamish and Kwakwaka’wakw cultures are a large part of everyday life. Aside from his artwork, Klatle-bhi aspires to maintain the languages, dances and songs of his ancestors. Klatle-Bhi believes both art and culture meet on a journey into the history of his people. Klatle-Bhi has taken on several apprentices to share the knowledge and experiences passed down to him with the next generation of up and coming artists.

Meagan Musseau March 5

Aboriginal Gathering Place Speaker Series
We are very pleased to present artist Meagan Musseau!

Please join us at the Aboriginal Gathering Place on
Thursday, March 5 at 11:30-12:30pm

Meagan Musseau is a L’nu artist from the Mi’kmaq Nation. Her practice is rooted in Elmastukwek, Ktaqmkuk territory (Bay of Islands, Western Newfoundland) and extends to other areas of Mi’kma’ki and Wabanaki territory. Musseau nourishes an interdisciplinary practice by working with customary art forms and new media, such as basketry, beadwork, land-based performance, video and installation. She focuses on creating artwork, dancing, learning the Mi’kmaw language, and facilitating workshops as a way to actively participate in survivance.

Her work has been exhibited at AKA artist-run centre, Saskatoon; Eastern Edge Gallery, St. John’s; VOX centre de l’image contemporaine, Montreal; Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff; and Kelowna Art Gallery, among others. Her practice has been supported by numerous awards such as the Atlantic Emerging Artist (2018) and VANL-CARFAC Emerging Artist of the Year (2018), and featured in publications including Canadian Art, Border Crossings, and Visual Arts News. Musseau is working towards solo exhibitions at TRUCK Contemporary Art Gallery (Calgary 2020) and Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre (Edmonton, 2020/21). Her solo exhibition, titled Pi’tawkewaq | our people up river, opens at Grunt Gallery (Vancouver) on March 5, 2020.

I Don’t Know Where to Find Sweetgrass