Aboriginal youth learned from two masters of their trades during a series of aboriginal youth screen-printing and art design workshops.
Through a partnership between the Comox Valley Art Gallery and the Wachiay Friendship Centre, 12 youth participated in workshops to learn art design from traditional Northwest Coast artist Andy Everson, and traditional screen-printing techniques from local expert Andy MacDougall.
“I find it really interesting and we’ve learned a lot of different things about art,” said youth participant Raven Mills, noting she’s learned quite a bit about how art is published and what the creation process is like for artists. “I learned a lot in a little amount of time.”
First scheduled for one 2.5-hour workshop per week for six weeks, the series was extended for a couple of weeks due to keen interest from youth, according to the Friendship Centre’s youth programs director Daryle Mills.
Each participant designed their own images in the Northwest Coast traditional style, then printed those images onto paper by knife-cutting Rubylith, which is a masking film, then using screen-printing equipment to transfer the images.
Youth will also print their images onto T-shirts before the workshops are complete.
MacDougall has printed limited edition prints for many local First Nations artists since the ’80s and said he jumped at the chance to help First Nations youth learn the technique. He was blown away by the student interest.
“They were just focused and zoned right in and everybody’s been super enthusiastic,” he said during the seventh session. “You can see the progression from when they started to now — it’s like night and day — and every time they do another design it’s just that much better.
“Some of them are off-the-chart good, like they’re really, really good.”
Participant Lorne Little used to draw every day. Though he now focuses on sports, he said he’s still interested in creating art in the Northwest Coast style.
“Keep a bit of our tradition alive,” said Little when asked why he’s interested in the style. “Not much of our people do it. I’m from the West Coast of Van Isle, from Ahousaht.
“It’s mainly the adults and stuff (that keep traditional art styles alive); not our younger generation.”
Participant Marlo Wylie was also a keen participant.
“I really like it,” she said as she printed her image onto a piece of paper with MacDougall’s guidance. “It’s really fun.
“It’s just nice to know your culture and where you’re from,” she added when asked why she enjoyed the workshops.
Daryle noted the Friendship Centre may take the youth interest in the workshops even further.
“We’re looking at perhaps building or purchasing some equipment for screen-printing to continue on with it as an ongoing project for the Friendship Centre youth,” he said.
“It’s possible it could turn into a bit of a small business venture for youth to provide screen-printing in the Valley for different agencies or for our own agency, as we put out a lot of T-shirts and stuff, so it’s possible we could make our own with the youth involved.”
He noted the workshops were successful thanks to Everson and MacDougall.
“That was the big pull, you know, it really is that those two Andys were going to be providing the project and the youth already knew both of them and had some rapport,” he said. Everson’s “just been a great mentor and leader for them. I find the kids just, you know, as soon as he shows up it’s completely quiet out there and they’re just listening and learning.
“And of course Andy MacDougall as well — they’re just great teachers and fantastic role models for these guys.”
For more information on the Wachiay Friendship Centre, visit www.wachiay.org, and for more information on the Comox Valley Art Gallery, visit www.comoxvalleyartgallery.com.