Young Indigenous artist to present at UBC's upcoming Environment Festival

·3 min read

When 2022 comes to a close, Tsleil-Waututh Nation artist Gordie Dick will have had one helluva year.

In May, the 13-year-old was hand picked by the United Nations Association in Canada to design a logo for World Environment Day. The logo went viral, and his creation has been showcased everywhere from West Vancouver to Washington, D.C. Now, Gordie has been selected to present at the University of British Columbia’s first-ever Environment Festival, where his creative talent will take centre stage.

The event is designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme and will be held at the UBC Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, Sept. 24. While musical acts keep the crowds entertained at the centre stage, exhibit spaces nearby will see local students discuss what they have been doing to promote sustainability within their communities.

It’s here where Gordie, who is the youngest child of TWN artist and North Vancouver School District Indigenous support worker Tchilaqs7Tchila Gordon Dick, will combine his drawing talents with the ideas of the imaginative young guests to create an inspiring, climate-change-fighting ocean superhero.

He hopes the project will raise awareness for ocean sustainability and protection, which, he says, “we need to act on now.”

The event will have him presenting to over 400 guests, but the crowds are no sweat off his back. This year, Gordie has been hobnobbing with industry bigwigs, including the Swedish Ambassador to Canada and Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and he is no stranger to public speaking either.

He's not nervous, he assures, "just excited."

It had been Gordie’s creative talents that garnered the attention of Jaime Webster, president and CEO of the United Nations Association in Canada, earlier this year.

His logo, featuring two hands holding up the earth, represents Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities joining forces to tackle climate change. Not only was it presented to the aforementioned climate leaders, it also went on to be sought after by teachers and environmentalists for programs and initiatives country-wide.

“This beautiful logo has travelled the world,” says Webster, “we’re excited we can finally show it here in Vancouver where it was created.”

It is a level of clamour that Ulwiana Mehta-Malhotra, a Grade 11 student from Mulgrave School, hopes to incite for her own cause. Mehta-Malhotra will speak on sustainable clothing and the perils of the fast fashion industry in the latter half of the day, where older university students are invited to pitch their sustainability ideas to executives.

“Being at the event means I can reach out to a whole new demographic of people, specifically those who are very passionate about environmental sustainability,” she says.

“It’s very heartwarming and motivating to have a festival like this, it really helps youth have their say and hopefully make a difference in the world."

Webster says she hopes the works of the climate-conscious teens will leave festival goers inspired to get involved, whether that be signing up to a program or lending their name to a petition. If not for themselves, then for the younger generation.

Mina Kerr-Lazenby, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News