Robin Roberts is currently at work on a pretty big project – he’s one of 21 Indigenous artists that have been selected to have their work displayed throughout the City of Vancouver.
Vancouver’s “Platforms,” a public art program, is featuring all Indigenous artists for the first time in its history. Celebrating National Indigenous History Month, the city launched the 2023 program Thursday (June 8) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Roberts said it’s “quite an honour” to be selected, as the “relationships between the city and the local Nations is paramount.”
“We need to honour the local artists and have more of the local representation in the city,” he explained. “I think that it gives you a sense – especially for Indigenous people – it might give them a sense of home, or a sense of belonging within the community.”
Roberts planning to do two to four pieces, which will be shown on bus stops beginning in November.
His project is going to be a painting of the relationship of his different ancestries. Originally from Prince Rupert, Roberts has status on his dad’s side through the Haida Nation. His mom was born in Hartley Bay, which is part of the Gitga’at in the Tsimshian Nation, but his maternal grandmother is from the Squamish First Nation.
“My work is going to be a painting of the relationship between my identity and Haida and Tsimshian and Coast Salish, as well. Growing up primarily in Prince Rupert in Tsimshian territory and also having my status in Haida Gwaii connects me more to Haida and Tsimshian , but being here since 1999 I’ve started to learn and do Coast Salish art.”
Four works from other artists are already being showcased throughout the city as part of “Platforms: Nine Places for Seeing”: Lauren Crazybull, of Blackfoot Dene, has a painted collage depicting the absence and presence of Indigenous faces at Marine Drive Canada Line Station; Coast Salish artist Atheana Picha’s work is on the Playhouse Theatre with illustrations showing spring awakening; Aaron Nelson Moody, of Squamish Nation, used western typography and Coast Salish imagery to tell a story; and Tsleil-Waututh’s Olivia George created an illustration of bees and beehives with Salish design elements on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Vancouver Indigenous Arts and Culture Planner Dionne Paul said the city hired three cultural advisors to help select artists as a “a way of lowering barriers for Indigenous artists and the application process and it was also about building community and relationship with the artists of these lands.”
“Platforms” was first launched in 2010, which uses citywide infrastructure as temporary canvases for two-dimensional art installations. The artwork will be installed on a “rolling basis,” says the city, between 2023 and 2025.