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The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver is honored to present and support the valuable work of artists from the Northern Cultural Expressions Society (NCES), a non-profit centre based in Whitehorse, Yukon that provides cultural training, educational opportunities and arts-based mentorship to youth. Led by carvers Calvin Morberg and Jared Kane, a graduate of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace, British Columbia, the NCES has become an important gateway for Yukon-based youth to explore cultural traditions and artistic practices in a safe and supportive environment.

Inspired by the principles embodied in the Freda Diesing School, Jared’s mentorship aims to develop a rich knowledge of traditional Northern-style design and carving techniques as well as a thorough understanding of the importance of these traditions and their relevance today. The Freda Diesing School has served as an anchor for many emerging artists on the Coast, and its influence on contemporary Northwest Coast art is inestimable. Values such as a respect for cultural traditions, a holistic approach to wellness, a commitment to artistic excellence and community leadership play central roles in the NCES’ programming. These values are also reflected in the supportive community that the carvers provide to one another throughout their personal and artistic journeys.

The diversity of the artists and artworks in this exhibition demonstrate the NCES’ dedication to building bridges between individuals and the greater community. Though many of the artists represented are First Nations, the NCES welcomes carvers of all backgrounds, whether from other parts of Canada or further afield. These artists are identified as Yukon in this catalogue, in order to highlight their connections to the region and its history. The unique experiences that these artists bring to Whitehorse find new modes of expression through the teachings of the NCES.

The artworks in this collection display an array of unique styles and imagery.  As a leading gallery in the representation of Northwest Coast art in Vancouver, the Inuit Gallery firmly believes in giving back to First Nations communities. Our collaboration with the NCES throughout the development of this exhibition aims to provide a platform through which emerging artists can share their work and gain hands-on experience working with galleries and collectors. The gallery gratefully acknowledges Carving and Education Programs Supervisor Colin Teramura for his clear and inclusive vision for this exhibition. We are delighted to share the work of the NCES with you and hope that you enjoy viewing this collection.

About the Northern Cultural Expressions Society

Since the development of the carving program in 2004, first as the Sundog Carving Studio and later re-established in its present model in 2008, the Northern Cultural Expressions Society (NCES) has served as a beacon for youth in Whitehorse and across the Yukon. Uniting the therapeutic practice of art with educational training and First Nations cultural traditions, the NCES empowers youth by giving them the tools and skills needed to thrive and grow into confident and compassionate individuals.

The NCES operates several programs that work together to create a holistic learning environment. These programs not only facilitate experiences and learning methods that may be otherwise unavailable to youth, but they also reinforce the values that ground the work of the NCES. Such programs include both beginner and advanced carving workshops, opportunities to collaborate on community projects and arts commissions, empowerment programs for women, valuable business skills and cultural resiliency programs that emphasize mental and emotional health.

Over the years, NCES teachers and students have produced several large-scale commissioned projects that are now on prominent display in Whitehorse. In 2009, nineteen carvers carved a forty-foot long dugout canoe from what was originally a thirteen ton red cedar log. Led by Tlingit master carver Wayne Price, students participated in talking circles and sweat lodges, swore off modern technologies, and committed to being substance free for the duration of the ten-week program in an effort to re-connect with First Nations cultural traditions to discover and rediscover their creative potential.

In keeping with the themes of healing and resiliency advanced by the NCES, carver Wayne Price led a second team of fifteen carvers in 2012 in the creation of a healing totem pole to commemorate residential school survivors and to honor the continued strength of First Nations traditions in light of such atrocities. Over a period of twenty weeks, students painstakingly carved a forty-foot totem, ensuring each wood chip was carefully collected and burned in a ceremony that symbolized both the impact of residential schools as well as the journey taken towards healing and spiritual growth. Today, both the totem pole and the canoe can be seen at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse.

The success of these projects and other NCES programs is unprecedented, and has proven to be a valuable and much needed resource within the community. Many of the graduates from the carving program have credited their time there for providing a sense of family and direction, and for giving them the skills they need to further their personal and artistic goals.

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