Gisele Maria Martin is one of several artists bringing First Nations and First Nations-inspired work to the McMillan Arts Centre this month.
The Tla-q-qui-aht First Nations storyteller will speak on March 27 as part of the Tales for the Telling, Stories for Adults series.
“I’m excited,” she said. “First Nations art is very meaningful.”
Martin, who has been sharing her culture with others in one form or another since she was 13, said many of her stories were passed down through her family. In fact, she remembers her father telling one particular story so many times that she can still “hear his voice” in her head “almost word-for-word.”
However, Martin also said that she may throw in a few contemporary stories. “I usually like to improvise,” she said, adding that she gets “inspired” as to which stories to tell based on the audience.
“It should be a great show and the MAC gallery team has worked hard to ensure there is a relevant show in the gallery at the same time,” said Tales for the Telling founder Marva Blackmore.
Vancouver-based artist Andre Prevost is one of the artists whose exhibit was inspired by First Nations art. His series of paintings depict totems found along the West Coast. “It’s a nod to the masters,” he said, explaining that he only creates exact replicas of the poles. “I don’t feel I have the right to interpret them,” he said. “It’s not my heritage.”
When it comes to these representational pieces, First Nation’s artist Qwaya Sam said it’s all about respect. “It’s an expression of individuals,” he said. “It’s neither here nor there for me.”
Sam has silver and copper jewellery on display at the arts centre and helped officially open this month’s exhibits. Like Martin, he is excited to share his art with everyone.
“It’s important,” he said. “My message to people is my culture is here, it’s alive. We’re not going anywhere soon.”
Sam is also a carver and he regularly works with another of the MAC’s featured artists, mask carver Francine Champagne.
Champagne also has a select few First Nations-inspired pieces in her exhibit, but she said a majority of her work is not meant to be representational.
“These are mine,” she said regarding those masks. “They’re my own stories, my own design.”
Champagne is currently working with Sam on a commissioned totem pole at Vancouver Island University.
While Prevost, Sam and Champagne’s work will be on display throughout the month, Martin’s show will start at 7:30 p.m. on March 27, with doors opening at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the storytelling are $12 for general admission and $10 for OCAC members, and are available at the MAC. You can also find them online at eventbrite.com by selecting the Parksville location and searching by date. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door, but people are encouraged to purchase in advance as the storytelling evenings are very popular.