By Layna Chelsea and Heather Johnson –
On July 12, 2018, Esk’et hosted Clayton Gauthier, Cree/Dakelh artist from Prince George, who facilitated the Canvas Art Project to share his teachings with selected community members. The four-day workshop took place in the community of Alkali Lake. Gauthier’s art portfolio consists of drawings, paintings, carvings, drum making, rattle making, logos, mirror etching, tattoos, and digital art. He apprenticed under artist Peter George, Wet’suwet’en master carver, and has had training opportunities, including a two-year program with the En’owkin Centre and the National Aboriginal Professional Artists Training, both of which have expanded his professional growth. He is a respected artist who is open to sharing his story and he encourages others on their creative journey. We were honored to have him in our community and happy to share our local history and teachings with him, as well.
After the workshop, Esk’et had planned an Art Gala in the Esk’et Café to showcase the local talent of the selected artists who were given the opportunity to learn from Gauthier, including Esk’etemc artists Jahpa Belleau, Leona Belleau, Annmarie Johnson, Olivia Johnson, Jacinta Sampson, and Linda Sampson—each of whom have background in the arts. It was a very special event for the community and support for the artists was evident.
The Art Gala was an opportunity for Esk’etemc community members to appreciate the art created during the Canvas Art Project. It was also a chance for the artists to see the impact their talent had on others, and we had a full house. Not only did the artists share their work, many of them also shared their background story and spoke with the attendees. The support from Esk’etemc was felt by each artist and many have been working on new projects since the show to continue their creative journey.
Esk’etemc was able to facilitate the Canvas Art Project and the Art Gala with the generous support of the CCACS Project Grant made available to non-profit organizations or community groups through the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society. The grant supports and helps develop new arts and culture initiatives within Williams Lake and the Central Cariboo (CRD Areas D, E, and F).
Esk’etemc Employment Assistance and Economic Development Manager Bettina Johnson played a key role in the application process by putting together a project that would ensure local talent could receive recognition from within the community in providing an opportunity for artists to share their work in a new manner. After seeing the talent behind the finished projects, selected art produced by the Esk’etemc artists is being made available as art prints for sale. Heather Johnson is the creative projects/marketing director and she is expected to build upon the work started in the community by creating opportunities for growth and bringing attention to the community of Esk’etemc.
Heather Johnson and Layna Chelsea are life-long best friends who have worked together for the first time on a recently released book Celebration & Ceremony- Esk’etemc Declaration of Title and Rights (available for purchase at http://www.blurb.ca/b/8629441 ). Now that they know where their talents lie, they continue to support each other’s opportunities for growth in their own creative journeys.