Victoria Landing residence honouring acclaimed artist Bill Reid

·3 min read

Brandon’s Victoria Landing Retirement Residence will be one of 33 Seniors Care residences across the nation celebrating iconic Canadian artist Bill Reid on Oct. 21.

It was important to explore the legacy of Reid’s work with a series of special events, said Ronna Goldberg, regional event planner, community engagement at All Seniors Care Living Centres. Goldberg said she is excited about the upcoming event, adding it was made possible through close collaboration with the educational director of the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in Vancouver.

“Everything that we’re doing is honourable, and wonderful, and educational,” Goldberg said. “[Reid] reintroduced Haida art in a classical form to the world, and through that, bridged cultures; everyone is excited to learn about this most significant artist and immerse themselves in Indigenous culture.”

It was essential to showcase Reid, she said, adding she hopes the artist will become a household name in Canada. Reid was known for his work as a master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, broadcaster, writer and community activist.

Goldberg said she works to organize about 10 special events a year, and October is typically earmarked for arts programs. Her programs are planned more than a year in advance and it feels timely that celebrating Reid takes place so close to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation that took place at the end of September.

Goldberg said it will serve as a great opportunity for the 200 residents at Victoria Landing to engage in conversations about reconciliation.

“We’re just really honoured and excited to be bringing this event,” Goldberg said.

In the lead-up to the special art day, residents will collaborate on their own unique art project, adornments replicating the totem poles of the Northwest Coast.

In celebration of Reid’s art a totem pole will be constructed at Victoria Landing with the official colours of the Haida: black, red, yellow, green and blue.

“Our residents will be making those totem poles with those colours in mind, and also of course their own interpretations,” Goldberg said.

The totem poles are an especially meaningful activity because of the icons’ significance in Reid’s life, Goldberg said.

The artist’s mother was Haida and his father had Scottish German roots. However, Reid did not know about his Haida heritage until his early 20s because his parents wanted to protect him from the Indian Act, she said. Upon discovering his background he returned to his mom’s village and connected to his granddad who was a jewelry maker. Reid became interested in the totem poles when he saw them for the first time in the village.

His art would go on to capture Haida culture and traditions, celebrating the rich history and culture of the Nation.

Reid is a legendary Canadian, Goldberg said, and it is an honour being able to commemorate his legacy with the more than 6,000 residents of Seniors Care residences across Canada.

After the totem poles are unveiled at Victoria Landing, residents will be able to participate in a day featuring several educational and fun activities, Goldberg said. Programs include learning Haida words and dice games to stimulate cognition, a lunch featuring Indigenous cuisine followed by a dance and drumming presentation.

Residents will also virtually cycle across the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver, an area rooted in Indigenous history, using specially adapted exercise bikes. The virtual experience will create the sensation of being “right there”, virtual technology encourages older people and people with cognitive decline to take part in a sport while seeing the world and sharing stories about their life experiences.

Goldberg added it was an important area to explore as the bridge features the famous Haida totem poles.

“It’s almost like we’re going to be there,” Goldberg exclaimed.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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