Reid partnership brings native art to academe

March 10, 2005, vol. 32, no. 5

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Simon Fraser University and the Bill Reid foundation have launched a new initiative that will bring Northwest Coast art into the academic mainstream.

The partnership involves the foundation's new president, George MacDonald, and members of the faculty of arts and social sciences in the development of a proposal to create the Bill Reid centre for Northwest Coast art studies at SFU.

"We have long wanted to expand our interest in the art of British Columbia to include more emphasis on Northwest Coast art," says Michael Stevenson, president of SFU. "This partnership with the Bill Reid foundation is a very large step along the road to developing a centre focused on the indigenous art of British Columbia."

The proposed centre, to be located at the Vancouver campus of SFU will provide a space where students and artists can meet with Native and non-Native members of the public at workshops, studio sessions, lectures, seminars, and a variety of social and cultural events.

The resource centre will include traditional reference materials but will emphasize digital libraries and archives that draw together seamlessly the contents of literally hundreds of repositories of Northwest Coast native art that have already been digitized.

Consortia of digital museums and archives are forming between institutions in North America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific region that can benefit future generations of students and scholars at universities that host the relevant portals.

"I see the Bill Reid centre's mission to be the promotion of an understanding of the history and principles of Northwest Coast indigenous art, through new research, connoisseurship and apprenticeships in the traditional arts of the region," says MacDonald.

Herb Auerbach, a faculty member at Harbour Centre, and MacDonald's predecessor with the foundation, was a driving force in the creation of the foundation and was instrumental in bringing MacDonald to B.C.

MacDonald was the founding director of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa-Hull. He has also been director of Seattle's Burke museum and of the Melbourne museum in Australia.

His seminal work, Haida Monumental Art, is the result of 20 years of field work mapping the Haida villages.

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