Education Centre unveils mural art project

By Denise Titian, February 14, 2017

Connie Watts helps unveil the student art work.

Photos by Denise Titian

Port Alberni — 

A new four-piece mural installation was unveiled at Eighth Avenue Learning Center (EALC) on Feb. 8. The murals were created through the Oneness of Nature Youth Project made possible through the collaborative efforts of the students, elders, Rollin Art Centre, the EALC, and renowned Tseshaht artist Connie Watts.

Native Education Worker Richard Samuel started the event by leading Nuu-chah-nulth protocols, including recognizing that communities were in mourning. He invited representatives of Tseshaht and Hupacasath to welcome people to their traditional territories.

Darrell Ross of Tseshaht said he was proud of the Oneness of Nature Project. He shared a story about a well-known Tseshaht artist and actor, George Clutesi.

“Back in 1951 George Clutesi hitchhiked to Victoria to ask the Massey Commission to lift the ban on potlatches,” said Ross. The Massey Commission was convened to investigate Canada’s cultural needs. The recommendations that were made by the Massey Report, and enacted by the federal government, are generally seen as the first major steps by the Canadian government to nurture, preserve and promote Canadian culture.

Ross was pleased to see the students working on projects like this and he congratulated them, wishing them all the best.

Vice Principal Nick Seredick acknowledged Tseshaht artist Connie Watts for the two months she committed to work with students Brandon, Justin, Jordie and Megan in their collaboration on the four paintings.

Each piece is named according to interconnected themes, like Contemplation and Transition, and are tied together with the Siyasusa painting, which means in the Nuu-chah-nulth language to go the furthest you can go.

The students first worked with mentors elders Simon and Julia Lucas as wells as John Rampanen and Nitanis Desjarlais. They discussed Nuu-chah-nulth history, culture, language and teachings. They went on to discuss the life journeys of each of the students.

From there they began working on concepts for each painting, developing ideas and deciding which components would work with each painting. The students spent hours painting.

“We had a great time working together, and there were a few who were not artists before this project,” said Seredick.

The EALC is the new home for alternative education programs VAST and Choices. Seredick said it’s a new space with a lot of bare walls. These pieces celebrate the beauty and the culture of our valley.

“John Rampanen and Nitanis Desjarlais are superb educators and mentors and the contributions of elders Simon and Julia Lucas will forever be part of the school as reflected in the art work,” said Seredick.

He thanked Richard Samuel and Connie Watts, saying, “There is no better artist and teacher who connects so well with the students. It’s a perfect blend of Connie and our students.”

Seredick also thanked the students for their personal contributions to the project.

“You shared your life stories and experiences and we’re all represented with these paintings,” he told them.

Many people and organizations contributed to the success of the Oneness of Nature Project. Financial contributions came from Art Start and the Rollin Art Centre provided some support.

Richard Samuel honored the students and teachers for their hard work by singing a traditional celebration song from his family.

Elder Simon Lucas said he was glad that there are people around that can take the thoughts of the elders and translate it into art.

One parent thanked Connie and the school for delivering such and exciting project for the students. “I didn’t have to wake my daughter up to go to school. She was keen to go and work on the project,” said the happy father. “This should be done every year. Thank you Connie for your mentorship,” he added.