First Nations Artist Forum

HIWEST: First Nations Artist Forum and Panel Discussion

Friday, September 30, 2016  
6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
University of Victoria Legacy Gallery Downtown
630 Yates Street

Creation, Honouring and Preservation of Pacific Northwest Indigenous Poles/Monumental Wood Carving is this year’s theme for the HIWEST Forum and Panel Discussion on Friday, September 30, 2016 from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. at the University of Victoria Legacy Art Gallery Downtown at 630 Yates Street.

Poles and other monumental wood carving have been commissioned and installed throughout our region in recent decades, eliciting huge public interest and appetite to learn more about the traditions, practices and meanings. Further, the stewards of the poles struggle to best and most respectfully commission, preserve and honour these monuments. Join us for an event that will delve deeper into the understanding, honouring, and caring for the poles/monumental wood carving that are so rich with cultural significance.

The evening will begin with a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Andrea Walsh, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria.The artist panel will include Doug LaFortune, Lou-ann Neel, Rande Cook and Hjalmer Wenstob.

Following the panel discussion Heidi Swierenga, Senior Conservator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia will give a presentation on the preservation of poles and monumental carvings. Even though poles and other wooden outdoor carvings are inherently predetermined to deteriorate, the Museum of Anthropology focuses on minimal intervention and preventative maintenance. Heidi Swierenga will introduce us to the care of poles by looking at a selection of examples and their particular treatment approaches. She will explore the factors that affect how they are conserved such as their construction, the nature of deterioration and the existence of written or oral understandings between artist and museum relating to long-term maintenance. She will address the challenges that occur when protocols are not in place, when the artist is no longer alive to consult, or when smaller institutions or private owners are at a loss as to what they can do to care for such works.

Traditional indigenous food from Songhees Seafood & Steam will be served.

The event is free however tickets are required and are available in advance at

This event is offered in partnership with the University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries & the City of Victoria


Andrea Walsh
Andrea Walsh, PhD, is a visual anthropologist and curator who specializes in 20th-century and contemporary aboriginal art and visual culture in Canada, as well as theoretical and methodological approaches to visual research. Andrea's work takes into consideration how institutions engage Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and audiences through curatorial and exhibition practice. Her curatorial practice and research critically reflect on and address discourses and actions of reconciliation, resurgence and redress as part of ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and Canada.

Chief Rande Cook (K'alapa) (b.1977, Alert Bay)
Surrounded by the beauty of land and art, Rande found the passion of creativity at an early age. With the strong teachings from his grandparents Gus and Florence Matilpi, Rande learned the strong values of life and culture. In 2008 Rande inherited his grandfather’s chieftainship and now carries the name Makwala, which means moon. Rande is very involved in his culture and has hosted a Potlatch and two feasts for his family and community. Rande is also known for his traditional dancing and singing in Potlatches. Rande has worked with many great mentors such as John Livingston for his mastery in wood sculpting, Robert Davidson in metal work, Calvin Hunt for his amazing craftsmanship in wood and most recently Repousee and Chasing master Valentin Yotkov.

Doug LaFortune (b. 1953, Tsawout)
Doug LaFortune was born in Bellingham, Washington, USA, in 1953. He spent his childhood in the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island, B.C. Doug’s artistic training includes studying at Camosun College, and as an apprentice of the renowned Salish carver Simon Charlie. Since 1973, Doug has been working as an artist in several mediums, including carving, drawing, painting, and serigraphy. Several of his totem poles stand in Duncan, British Columbia.

Heidi Swierenga is an object conservator in Vancouver BC, specializing in the care of cultural belongings. She is also involved in teaching conservation and gives courses in the conservation or organic and inorganic materials within the Department of Anthropology at UBC and she has given several workshops in her region. She is currently Senior Conservator and Head of the Collections Care, Management and Access Department at the UBC Museum of Anthropology where she, along with colleagues in the Collections Department maintains a large collection of monumental wooden carvings.

Hjalmer Wenstob (Tlehpik)
Hjalmer Wenstob (Tlehpik) is an Nuu-chah-nulth artist from the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Lou-ann Neel (b. 1960’s, Alert Bay)
Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel is from the Mamalillikulla and Kwagiulth tribes of the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwak’wala-speaking people). Lou-ann has been designing and creating original design works for over 30 years, starting first in wood and textiles (button blankets and painted Chilkat robes) and in more recent years, jewelry design and digital design. Lou-ann’s work is greatly influenced by the work of her grandmother, Ellen Neel (Ka’kasolas) and her great grandfather, Charlie James (Yakuglas).  She is honored to be able to continue the artistic traditions of her family.  Lou-ann recently completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and plans to return to complete a Masters Degree in Fine Arts.

For more information: or 250.361.0363.