Reflections: Art and History as Mirrors (2)

The scroll that ARTCi artists Tracie Stewart and Karen Myskiw created with members of the public is now on display at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site in the Seine Net Loft. The public are invited to come and view the many stories and images that make up this artful piece which tells some of the many tales of the Shipyards and captures our collective connection to ‘this place’. The scroll offers a perfect ‘Selfie Spot’ and a place to reflect on your story.

As we wrap up for the year, we are pleased to offer a few reflections on the art that was created with ARTCi and Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, with special thanks to the Richmond Public Art program. Below are some of our artist’s and partner’s thoughts.

Tracie Stewart

Collaborating with the public who visited the Shipyards was such a gift. Everyone has a story to share or something to mark his or her presence. Over 250 people both young and old contributed to this collaboration. It was interesting to note how infectious the act of drawing and painting became. While Karen and I shared stories of the Sisters of Atonement, many others shared back with us. We heard about the children who grew-up around the shipyards who were called “Cannery Rats”, and the woman with five girls. I received language lessons as people of all cultures drew icons. Even Mr. Steves himself stopped by to give his approval and share some tales. I heard about kids growing up with sand between their toes, and how this place was one of the largest bird estuaries. Being able to go aboard the boats to see first hand how people still live made me want to capture this detail. Hearing the stories of so many people who grew up there, were married there, or were visiting from elsewhere made an impact on me in such a way that I hope to honour their stories as they weave together layer after layer.

Roy Mulder

I contributed four videos to the Richmond Heritage Shipyards project, to be used as promotional videos for the Shipyards. They were a mix of performances by the ARTCi artists and captured some of the historic characters in action. The videos also captured some of the events that were held on site. These videos can be used to promote the site online through websites, social media and as tools to show the site. The characters portrayed in the videos provide a glimpse of the people that worked on the site. We hope that our videos will bring more visitors to the Shipyards and will provide some live history.

Karen Myskiw

The Richmond Heritage Shipyards scroll became part of a living reflection of the over 250 who people who visited our event. It was an honour to facilitate and witness the layers of mark making and the narrative that each person brought to the art piece. From the Chinese elders who initially chose to inscribe the first brushstrokes and marsh scenes on the fresh canvas, to the artists who added their sea life motifs, house boats, and personal insignias, families from all walks of life ultimately made the scroll come to life. Seeing a one year old held in the air by her mother as she purposefully added her touches remain part of the living legacy the scroll will represent. In celebrating the heritage of the Britannia Shipyards we also encapsulated the images, reflections, stories and spirit of community that has been a legacy for present and future generations. A feeling of deep gratitude resides as we witness and contribute to the poignant synergy that lay at the heart of the community art piece.

Kimberley Baker, Heritage Coordinator

ARTCi was the first artist in residence group that Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site collaborated with, and the experience was positive. The collaboration with ARTCi Inc. went very smoothly because of their professionalism, enthusiasm, and creativity. The group showcased how the arts can be a conduit to explore history in unique and fun ways for community member’s participation and people visiting the museum. The volunteers and participants had fun engaging in activities while at the same time learned about local history and the lives of the people who lived and worked at Britannia. The programs provided visitors with an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of Britannia’s historical role in the maritime history of British Columbia. ARTCi offered a range of programs for visitors to participate in including roving dramas, the historical scroll, and Indigenous perspectives, which provided an active site. One particular experience that moved me was the Indigenous perspectives with Nk’xetko (Mary Jane Joe) introducing the visitors to her personal life experiences through language, songs, stories, and art. Nk’xetko (Mary Jane Joe) engaged visitors in making them feel comfortable to ask questions, which as a result encouraged understanding and empathy.

Lucy Higgs – Lockie

Corporate Intern, Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site

One particular encounter working with ARTCi that really moved me was during their very first run of their Tide Water Tales. Seeing all the faces of the volunteers after they had finished their first tour and how excited they were and how much fun they were having was truly incredible. It was also seeing this progress of some of the more shy volunteers coming out of their shells and truly diving into character and loving every second of it that was amazing to see. From their very first drama workshop timid and shy, worried they would embarrass themselves, to performing in character in front of groups of people, will be something I will take away with me. You could see such a confidence boost. Plus seeing youth, adults and strangers come together and work on a project and have it turn out so well and be enjoyed is so great to witness.

I think that ARTCI had an amazing impact on the site and the public visiting Britannia. Their Tide Water Tales and Making Your Mark gave us site animation that we were lacking before. Having costumed historical characters roving our site and telling site visitors tidbits of Britannia’s history is such an impactful addition to the site, as well as hands on art activities such as Making Your Mark. Having animations like these is what leaves visitors with lasting memories and continue to talk about after they leave.

We are hoping to take some of what ARTCi introduced (costumed historical interpreters) and create an actual costumed interpreter program here at Britannia. I think the lasting legacies of Tide Water Tales and ARTCi’s contributions to Britannia will be prominent in our desire to create an active and animated site. Having ARTCi and their incredible volunteers create stories about the histories of our site and animate the site with intriguing and fun characters is something we strive to continue to do at Britannia.

ARTCi brought a new sense of excitement and something that engaged our visitors on site. They told stories, told truths and educated people in an artistic and creative way. We hope that we are able to continue to do the same at Britannia through similar costumed interpreters and art projects that bring voices, historiesand creativity to the surface.

May we all continue to create! Happy holidays to everyone!

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