The College of New Caledonia is launching a First Nations fine art course that will teach students traditional painting, drum making, rattle making, and cedar bark weaving.
The university transfer First Nations Art, Design, and Technology course begins in January and will be taught by local artist Peter George.
George, a well-known painter and carver, whose work has been sold internationally, says the course is a natural progression from work he currently does with School District 57 – teaching children from kindergarten to Grade 12 First Nations’ art and history. He taught in 75 classrooms last year with six to 10 sessions per class.
“Teaching in these schools for all these years,” said George at Wildwood Elementary Tuesday, “it’s a logical step to go up to CNC.
But it’s also a big step, because the program has to follow a set curriculum for fine arts, George said.
Representatives of CNC contacted George, and set up a focus panel – wondering what sort of art program would have significance for the Prince George region, focusing on the Carrier in particular.
Born in Smithers, George was raised in Prince George and has been an artist for most of his life. He got involved with teaching traditional northwest coast native art in local schools eight years ago.
George’s teachings are concerned with clan and house crests. The five clans are the bear, caribou, grouse, beaver and frog. He teaches history and culture with each lesson, because “it is the basis of the whole system.”
“They [the kids] like all the stories and legends and history. A lot of them tell the same stories and legends that I pass on to them. They enjoy it.”
The artwork that George teaches is done in three steps – outline, form line and detail. Outline is the basic shape, form line fills in the thicker black lines and detail is the colour – “the living parts of the picture” – red and teal.
George says traditionally black was usually charcoal, while the pigments were made from berries and ochre mixed with animal fat or salmon oil.