'A place of growth for students': UBCO hosts annual Indigenous Art Intensive

UBC Okanagan is hosting its seventh annual Indigenous Art Intensive online again this year.

The month-long event helps facilitate an environment of Indigenous artistry through presentations and classes. Featuring world-renown speakers, writers, artists and scholars, the Intensive is a place to harbour learning of the Sylix Okanagan Nation and other Indigenous life stories. Students are able to participate through month-long courses taught by Indigenous artists, free weekly panels featuring visiting artists on Zoom and keynote presentations live streamed on Youtube.

This year’s theme — “site/ation” — asks participants to “read the land as opposed to the page,” said Professor Tania Willard.

Willard, who is aiding in the organization of the program, finds the Intensive inspiring and generative.

“At times, as a [mixed-Indigenous] student I felt isolated in my program. But during the Intensive, there is a centring of contemporary Indigenous art and all its corollary culture, struggle and experience,” she said.

“This really can be a place of growth for students of all backgrounds.”

According to UBCO’s Dean of Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies Dr. Bryce Traister, one take away from the intensive would be to “just listen.”

“I would say that for me and for other academic settler learners in the Okanagan, the major takeaway would be humility before the power of creation,” he said.

The location of the campus is a foundational one, according to Willard.

“We have Syilx artists in residence, keynotes and guest faculty and they learn so much from Syilx lands and communities,” she said.

Traister agreed, noting how this relationship fundamentally creates an atmosphere where the campus is “never far from what makes [it special]” and generates a “commitment to Indigenous relationships.”

Whether the learning be in class or with presentations from keynote speakers, Trasiter believes that the Intensive makes participants adjust their mindsets towards Indigenous issues.

Although online again this year, Willard notes that this format “[has its] benefits with less structure.”

“We can get outside and start to work in these ways of acknowledging land and also challenging our creative practices to work with the outdoors as a studio,” she said.

Trasiter added that there are many possibilities with online services, specifically that the Vancouver campus can also participate with the classes and presenters.

“I think that the advantage of the online situation is that potentially more people will be able to experience aspects of the Intensive than they would in [an] in-person format.”

A schedule and link to all of the Indigenous Art Intensive events can be found on their website. Events run until June 16.