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Interior Salish art could draw tourists to Southern Interior

James Weizden, a former En'owkin Centre student, created this piece of a canoeist, using ordinary materials found in the wild.
June 09, 2015 - 2:26 PM

PENTICTON - A demand by tourists for local indigenous art is being heard and the Penticton Indian Band has taken the first steps towards making that happen.

The Penticton Indian Band hosted a workshop last week as it works to create a strategy to meet the tourist market demand for authentic Interior Salish art. The event, held at the En’owkin Centre, was hosted by Shain Jackson, a Coast Salish native artist and lawyer from Sechelt.

Jackson spoke to Okanagan Nation members about the authentic indigenous arts resurgence campaign, an Aboriginal Tourism initiative to promote and support native art in the retail and wholesale sectors.

“This meeting marks a first step in examining the market and in creating an authentic cultural image as a branding strategy," En’owkin Centre executive director Lauren Terbasket said. "We’ve had a difficult time bringing Interior Salish branded art into the marketplace and much of what is seen, even locally, is coastal art.”

What the market place is, who to educate the market about, the Interior Salish artistic perspective and how to ensure the economic benefits flow to the artists were all topics discussed at the workshop. Native artists also talked about the need to apply an indigenous artistic perspective to items created for the tourism market.

“It’s important for us to see symbols of ourselves in the things we create. It helps us build relationships, not only locally, but with tourists and collectors who buy what our artists create,” Terbasket said, noting up to 90 per cent of the tourist market for coastal native art was imported. “We know there is a large market for Interior Salish art, which historically has been utilitarian in nature. Our discussion today also involves how we can produce both one of a kind creations, and also mass produce our artworks, to be sold for decorative purposes."

A couple of examples of native art offered by students at En'owkin Centre include these pieces, both fashioned out of paper. The porcupine took more than 900 sheets to create.
A couple of examples of native art offered by students at En'owkin Centre include these pieces, both fashioned out of paper. The porcupine took more than 900 sheets to create.

Jackson also led a discussion regarding fair pay for artists, describing his work to protect artists’ rights through the development of the Authentic Indigenous logo, a design applied to native arts and crafts that signifies to the buyer the artwork is genuine  and the artist has been fairly compensated for his work.

Members of the group also expressed a strong desire to set their own standards for authenticity, rather than having the designation dictated by outside interests.

Terbasket said locally, due in part to the National Aboriginal Professional Artists training program offered in partnership between the Enowkin Centre and funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Okanagan Nation has a community of artists ready to go. This will be the first step towards fulfilling the strong retail demand for indigenous products. Currently, those products have only limited availability in places such as Grizzly Market, and the Osoyoos Desert Cultural Centre owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band, as well as a few other retail outlets.   

The group, in cooperation with Tourism Penticton Executive Director Chris Bower, is examining additional retail outlets that showcase Okanagan branded arts, such places as in local airports and tourist information centres.

“When we look at the history of any people, it’s their art that codifies who they are,” said En’owkin’s spokesperson Tracey Kim Bonneau. “Consumers want authenticity — tourists will always buy items that are original, because it makes them feel better about their experience.”

First Nations artists and craftsmen gathered to discuss a marketing and branding strategy for Interior Indigenous Arts Marketing on June 5 at the Penticton Indian Band's En'owkin Centre.
First Nations artists and craftsmen gathered to discuss a marketing and branding strategy for Interior Indigenous Arts Marketing on June 5 at the Penticton Indian Band's En'owkin Centre.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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