Nevada will hang screen-prints of Douglas Fir tree rings from her series Douglas Fir/Srap7úl inside the glass-walled room within Herschel’s Gastown store. The images, which each include a land acknowledgement, can be seen through the sheer muslin on which they were printed, Nevada notes.
“By putting a land acknowledgement on each one of these pieces, I’m asking, how can we integrate these words into our everyday lives? And what do they actually mean?” Nevada says. “What’s my responsibility as a guest on traditional land? And what does that look like on a day-to-day basis?”
The Herschel Artist in Residence program was developed in partnership with both the Career Development + Work Integrated Learning office and the Advancement office at Emily Carr University with the goal of exhibiting the work of three emerging artists over the course of 2023 and 2024. The first edition was an open call for all ECU students; the second was specific to BIPOC students; the third was specific to Indigenous students. Karl Hipol was the inaugural resident, while Hannah Watkins was the second. Each recipient has their work exhibited for a period of roughly three months and receives a $4,000, no-strings-attached stipend.
Nevada, who is of Cree Métis and European ancestry, says Douglas Fir/Srap7úl is rooted in her experience of living on Alpha Lake, on the unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation and Lilwat7úl (Lil’wat) Nation. As part of a six-year recovery from a serious head injury, Nevada plunged into the lake’s icy waters for 365 days. As she healed and became more connected to the land, she began to wonder who its original caretakers had been.
Through her mother-in-law, she connected with a Lilwat7úl Elder residing in Mount Currie who had lived on a small island in the middle of the lake for a time as a child. During the visit, Nevada recalls asking her son what it was like when they lost their land.
“His answer was, ‘We never lost our land. It’s still our land,’” she tells me. “And then he told me the Whistler gondola runs through his uncle’s trapline. Displacement for Indigenous peoples is not ancient history. It’s still happening.”
As the final recipient of the 2023/4 Herschel residency, Nevada notes that Indigenous-specific funding can be “life-changing” for Indigenous artists.
“These artists are representing whole communities,” she says. “They don’t want to just be successful for themselves. They want to speak to issues that are really meaningful and urgent. That responsibility is driving their work. These kinds of grants are making a big difference in the lives of Indigenous artists, and Indigenous artists are affecting real change.”
She adds that Herschel in particular is “doing meaningful work with this program. They’re professional, they’re warm, they care and they’re providing impactful financial opportunities for artists.”
Jaelem Sangara, Herschel’s Vice-President, Brand & Community, says the Gastown Herschel store was built to showcase design and creativity, which have always been at the centre of the Herschel brand.
“Showcasing Nevada’s work in the Gastown space is also inspiring for our customers — who might be looking for a backpack — to end up discovering a new artist,” Jaelem tells me via video chat.
Shannon McKinnon, the Director of Career Development + Work Integrated Learning at ECU says the goal was to create a professional development opportunity through an artist in residency program to help them to gain real-world experience as working artists.
“The program is a great way for students to showcase their work while building connections within the creative community, and receive funding,” she tells me. “Herschel really stepped up to ask what they could do to support students, and the result was this immensely collaborative project. It’s been wonderful to help shine a spotlight on our students and their practices, and highlight what’s happening within Vancouver’s arts community and at the university.”
Students can contact ECU’s Career Development + Work Integrated Learning office to learn more about their huge range of programming, resources, and professional development opportunities.