Aboriginal artists in both areas are finding connection and reconciliation through the Telus Art Project.
Michaela Gilbert of Williams Lake First Nation and Barbara Derrick of Xeni Gwet’in, both Cariboo artists, were selected by Telus to help create art for the company.
When Telus searched for First Nations artists, both women were selected to collaborate, and the collaboration will begin in June 2022. Telus gave them the theme of “connectivity”, some color schemes and parameters in terms of using animals, and let them create.
“Michaela and I are great together,” Derrick says of working with her fellow artists.
Derrick is an art educator and professional artist living in Edmonton but originally from Quesnel. She said her work was inspired by all the good things that happened in Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) because her mother was Xeni Gwet’in. She drew on her clan animal bear, and her connection to the land through food, to create a beautiful stylized bear with a salmon in its mouth. She calls it walking in power—a lesson from her grandmother.
Gilbert, 2, a third-year fine arts student at Victoria University, said she drew on the idea of reconnecting culture through land and using anthropomorphic animal characters in cultural stories. She was inspired by the traditional story of how the crow stole the sun, and her final design is titled Qwléwem, or picking berries. She drew two crows picking berries in Saskatoon in a birch basket.
While Derrick already knew what she could do, Gilbert said she got some ideas from Derrick herself to help her design the artwork for the project.
“She was a great support,” Gilbert said of how the senior artist and educator facilitated her in her process.
Derek said the project was particularly exciting because she said it felt like the work of Aboriginal artists was being recognized.
“There are opportunities like this that we never dreamed of before,” she points out.
Gilbert said she’s “excited to share my work with the community because I’m committed to my art and I’m proud of the finished project.”
As an artist, Gilbert says one of her goals is to “create modern representations of Indigenous peoples to encourage embracing culture alongside individuals in the contemporary world.”
The two works of art come together beautifully in the final piece, bringing together vibrant animals connected to the land through local food. Look for murals on the sides of the Telus building on 2nd Avenue in Williams Lake and on the sides of Telus vehicles passing through the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
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Art Cariboo Chilcotin First Nations Visual Arts Williams Lake
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