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When Your Art Makes History and History is Art

ARTCi has been on site at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site creating art from historical artefacts and bringing characters from the past to life as part of the Tide Water Tales Project. Each workshop and event has been and will continue to be filled with art and history in action, demonstrating how accessible art is and how it connects us all to one another and a sense of time and place; how we are all artists.

Photo by Roy Mulder, ARTCi. Historical Character Drama Workshop, May 19th 2018.

Both Shelley and Lori have run drama and poetry workshops for people interested in creating historical characters that they can perform at upcoming events. Smiles and laughter broke out as participants played a round of “One Word Story,” a game where each person contributed one word at a time to a collective story (whether it made sense or not). Taking it one step further, we then created a canning line using simple body movements and sound, inspired by some of the historical photos in the Chinese Bunkhouse showing the rather ‘messy’ process of canning salmon. Shelley took people for a walk through some of the buildings on site and had them imagine that they were leaving their homes or coming to a new one for the first time. They then took some time to reflect and wrote some moving monologues that captured the tone of times gone by through the voices of their new found characters. Andrew Wade imagined he was the foreman of the cannery and had to share the bad news that it would be shutting down due to how the landslide at Hell’s Gate in 1914 had negatively affected the salmon runs. He wrote this monologue: “All I’ve ever tried to do is what’s best for the cannery. I fired people, sure, but I also hired them in the first place. I kept this place profitable and efficient. I didn’t want to tell them we were shutting down! The look in their eyes. A few understood, but a lot of them glared at me like it was my fault! I don’t control the river! I just make sure that people do their jobs as best as they can. We are on the same side. We’ve always been on the same side. And now…I’m out of work too. Just like all of them.” In the Found Poetry workshop, we used photocopies of actual historical documents about some of the buildings and features of Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site and created some “Found” or “Blackout” poetry. The results were terrific with people happy to share their creations and have them featured here. This one, about the Murakami Boatworks, was particularly evocative: The scent of cedar and oak permeate. Steaming perfect planks… Traditional, timeless, vibrant. Built to last. Craftsmanship. Another man said that Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site reminded him of a poem. He wrote in Farsi and his son translated (see the photo below).

Dramatic play, portraying historical characters, drawing, painting, photographing, making connections…all of these are activities that ARTCi is facilitating at Britannia in the coming months. Join the team and us at the Shipyards as a volunteer to engage in art or learn more about being an artist. Join us as a member of the public to create it! ARTCi’s next workshops and events happen on June 23rd. Make sure you put them on your calendars!

Volunteer Drama Workshop Saturday, June 23rd 9:30am-12: 30 pm – Chinese Bunkhouse Listen, learn and participate in drama workshops that will bring to life the people who lived and worked at Britannia Shipyards. Become part of a theatrical team who will enact historical characters and engage visitors in performances or simply come out and enjoy being ‘dramatic’. Indigenous Perspectives: Saturday, June 23rd 1pm-3pm - Murakami Boatworks Nk’xetko (Mary Jane Joe), ARTCi’s Elder will share stories of being a survivor of Residential School. She will share some of her personal artefacts, a talking circle, some traditional language and drumming and facilitate a Friendship Dance, all on the theme of reconciliation. For more information about volunteering at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, contact: Lynsey Li, Volunteer Coordinator at or call 604-238-8050

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