February 29 to April 14, 1996
This exhibition had its origins in early 1995, when the Prince George Art Gallery and the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society made a commitment to work together in order to pursue stronger inter-cultural connections through art. Through a series of open meetings, we explored a community-based curatorial approach towards what became the exhibit, which helped define its scope, process and theme: “creating cultural harmony: a community vision.” We drew up and distributed a call for submissions asking artists to interpret this theme, and waited for their response. Unity and Diversity in Arts and Culture is the result of that process.
Being aware of its own biases, the Curatorial Committee encouraged artists to interpret the exhibition theme as they felt appropriate, providing as little suggestion as possible. In response, artists submitted work which dealt with the sharing of cultures through dance, for instance, family, inter-generational connections, visions of different communities, threat, conflict and racism and the Medicine Wheel form and colours. This variety of response speaks to both the artists’ different cultural backgrounds and experiences as well as to different visions of the communities in which they live (it is interesting to note that almost one half of the artists represented in this show came from outside of Prince George.)
Family, if understood not as a group of people with blood ties, but as a group of people that is mutually supportive, is a common theme. Inter-generational connections are presented, perhaps in recognition of the link to a cultural background that many younger and newer generation Canadian identify through their ancestors. Representations of other communities speak of an awareness and a respect for others who share this earth, while other works challenge racism and social issues which threaten a harmonious coexistence.
Some of the artists have taken a representational approach towards exploring the exhibition theme, whereas others have investigated an abstract approach. That is to say, that some artists have produced an image that can be read and understood in the same manner as a photograph, whereas others have rendered the subject matter more ambiguously. Certainly, from a visual perspective the work in this exhibition is diverse, although a sense of unity is imposed through the artist’s interpretation of the common idea.
The work of these artists: Meriel Barber, Jonesey Louis, Virginia Eliuk Pettman, BJ Arnason, Betty Kovacic, Caroline Moorhouse, June Swanky Parker, Ruth Hansen, Anne Bogle, Judith Copland, Carol Whetter, Ann Vicente, James Beairsto, George Littlechild and Linda Frinmer demonstrate through this show that there is diversity in any group, but that unity and harmony can also be found therein. Perhaps it is to these examples that we should look in establishing a vision of the communities in which we live.
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