UBC Okanagan’s popular Indigenous Art Intensive returns for 2023

Previous participant Evangeline John, wears a ribbon skirt she created, in a field filled with balsam root sunflowers in Secwepemcúl’ecw. UBCO’s Indigenous Art Intensive begins with the understanding that land contains knowledge.

What: Indigenous Art Intensive, keynote presentations and artist panels
When: Wednesdays, May 17 to June 14, 2023
Time: 12:00 to 2:30 pm
Where: University Theatre, ADM 026, UBC’s Okanagan Campus

For more than a decade the Indigenous Art Intensive has brought leading international and national Indigenous scholars, curators, artists and writers together at UBC Okanagan in Syilx territory.

Starting May 17 and taking place the next four Wednesdays, keynote speakers will give presentations while artists will discuss their works and participate in panel discussions. All of these lunchtime sessions are at noon in the university theatre and open to the public.

The visiting artists and scholars in residence also take part in exhibitions, art making, workshops, course visits and an open studio day—also free and open to the public.

“There are amazing artists and cultural practices among Indigenous nations in the Okanagan,” says Professor Tania Willard, Indigenous Art Intensive Program Director. “UBCO’s intensive builds on that by having Syilx representation as visiting artists alongside artists from other places.”

The program gathers students, artists, curators, writers and scholars to engage in contemporary ideas and discourse rooted in Indigenous art-making. It offers an educational series of courses, lectures, art shows and opportunities to create art. The program connects world-renowned speakers with resident artists to create new work. Besides all the public-facing programming, Willard says the Indigenous Art Intensive also offers a series of courses for credit.

“It’s about creating an interdisciplinary, intercultural gathering space. It’s open-ended in terms of knowing that when you plant those seeds, interesting collaborations and future projects are given a starting point,” she says. “It’s a generator, I suppose. Our first goal is to generate intercultural, interdisciplinary and intergenerational conversations that can address critical issues facing Indigenous communities.”

Willard says artists who boldly engage with theory or practice that reject the status quo move her most. It’s a place to be with like-minded folks, as well as people who are coming from different disciplines. There’s a supportive atmosphere for people who are focused and engaged with future potential.

“We can learn all kinds of things hearing from an artist directly—stories, struggles or conflicts, problems with sourcing materials or logistics, and what it is like to be an artist full-time in a professional field,” she says. “That is valuable for students and different than what we might learn through textbooks or readings because it is happening in real-time.

This year’s keynote speakers include recognized artist Nadia Myre, tattoo practitioner Dion Kaszas, political anthropologist Audra Simpson and curator and scholar Dylan Robinson. They are joined by visiting artists Michelle Sound, Krista Belle Stewart, Mariel Belanger, Peter Morin, Ts̱ēmā Igharas, Tiffany Shaw, Krystle Silverfox, Gabrielle Hill and Vanessa Dion Fletcher.

The intensive is hosted by UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) in partnership with UBC Okanagan Gallery—a newly founded university gallery, that builds on the work of the Indigenous Art Intensive.

It’s been 10 years since the first Indigenous Art Intensive and it has continually hosted artists in residence in a professional capacity, paying Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC) fees and supporting their practice through studio facilities, networking and peer mentorship, explains Dr. Stacey Koosel, UBCO Gallery Curator and Indigenous Art Intensive Co-ordinator.

“Helping artists develop their practice and expand their network is what every ambitious gallery wants to do, which is why UBC Okanagan Gallery is committed to supporting and co-ordinating the Indigenous Art Intensive,” she says.

Now in its second year, UBC Okanagan Gallery’s first exhibition projects were in collaboration with the Indigenous Art Intensive. Previous artist residencies supported by the BC Arts Council were Whess Harman’s Lossy exhibition and Being Gooz publication and Manuel Axel Strain’s puti kʷu alaʔ exhibition in 2022.

Invisible Forces, an exhibition by Krystle Silverfox and Tiffany Shaw, will open with a reception in UBCO’s FINA Gallery on Wednesday, June 7 at 5 pm.

FCCS is offering courses in visual art with Tania Willard, creative writing with Troy Sebastian, art history with Dr. Stacey Koosel, and Indigenous studies with Evan Habkirk. These courses will run in conjunction with the Indigenous Art Intensive with varying degrees of crossover to provide students the opportunity to connect with the keynote speakers and the resident artists. All courses run in May and June.

All programs are free and open to the public. For a full event schedule, course information and information about the artists in residence, visit our blog.