Thanks Ellena! Interview with VMF’s 2018 Kulus Program Coordinator

 Interview by  Gabriela Torres   Year three of the Vancouver Mural Festival is wrapping up and as we look back at the festival, special events, and street parties, we want to celebrate some of our amazing team members like Ellena Neel, who took the lead in the 2nd year of VMF’s: Kulus (Young Thunderbird) Youth Mural Arts Program.

Interview by Gabriela Torres

Year three of the Vancouver Mural Festival is wrapping up and as we look back at the festival, special events, and street parties, we want to celebrate some of our amazing team members like Ellena Neel, who took the lead in the 2nd year of VMF’s: Kulus (Young Thunderbird) Youth Mural Arts Program.

Meet Ellena Neel

 Ellena Neel: Kulus Program Coordinator 2018  Introducing Ellena Neel. VMF 2018’s Kulus program coordinator, who will be worked alongside local organizations, Indigenous youth, and young artists to help develop and execute a variety of art-related workshops.  Ellena is a leader in her community with plenty of experience in youth programming. Her Indigenous background stems from the  Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth nations  where Formline is a common and popular art form used to express one’s culture, stories, and experiences.  Art has been a part of Ellena’s community and family for generations and is something both her father and mother have passed down to her. Since the age of five, Ellena has worked alongside her father to learn the ins and outs of Formline, while Ellena’s mother has taught and passed down the age-old techniques of Regalia Making. For the past five years, Ellena has been working on further developing her skills as a Formline artist.   Ellena’s Role   It has been a joy to have Ellena help coordinate programming with local Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations to maximize available opportunities for youth to create art.  As a part of Kulus programming, Ellena shared her knowledge of Formline to teach workshops new to the 2018 festival called “Introduction to Formline.” Additionally, Ellena help facilitate and coordinate workshops introduced at last year’s festival called “Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti” and “Hide Painting.”  In all Ellena was able to engage 4 different Indigenous-led organizations and complete 6 workshops with indigenous youth aged 6 - 25,

Ellena Neel: Kulus Program Coordinator 2018

Introducing Ellena Neel. VMF 2018’s Kulus program coordinator, who will be worked alongside local organizations, Indigenous youth, and young artists to help develop and execute a variety of art-related workshops.

Ellena is a leader in her community with plenty of experience in youth programming. Her Indigenous background stems from the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth nations where Formline is a common and popular art form used to express one’s culture, stories, and experiences.

Art has been a part of Ellena’s community and family for generations and is something both her father and mother have passed down to her. Since the age of five, Ellena has worked alongside her father to learn the ins and outs of Formline, while Ellena’s mother has taught and passed down the age-old techniques of Regalia Making. For the past five years, Ellena has been working on further developing her skills as a Formline artist.

Ellena’s Role

It has been a joy to have Ellena help coordinate programming with local Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations to maximize available opportunities for youth to create art.

As a part of Kulus programming, Ellena shared her knowledge of Formline to teach workshops new to the 2018 festival called “Introduction to Formline.” Additionally, Ellena help facilitate and coordinate workshops introduced at last year’s festival called “Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti” and “Hide Painting.”

In all Ellena was able to engage 4 different Indigenous-led organizations and complete 6 workshops with indigenous youth aged 6 - 25,

 Hide Painting by Raycam Youth fo the Kulus program @ KANATA FESTIVAL 2017     Ellena’s Goals   Formline is a style of art used by First Nations on the Pacific West Coast. Its distinguishable ovoid designs are on a wide range of objects including totem poles, blankets, and everything in-between. Since the art often takes place in a formal setting with an apprentice and mentor, it is inaccessible to a wider audience.  In her workshop, Ellena’s goal was to change Formline’s level of accessibility by teaching youth the art form’s basics and to inspire creativity and build relationships with workshop attendees by engaging and connecting with them on a deeper level.  Ellena says,  “I always want to help create for the Indigenous communities. It inspires me to have the chance to engage with youth and people in a workshop where we can all just hangout and do some art.”

Hide Painting by Raycam Youth fo the Kulus program @ KANATA FESTIVAL 2017

Ellena’s Goals

Formline is a style of art used by First Nations on the Pacific West Coast. Its distinguishable ovoid designs are on a wide range of objects including totem poles, blankets, and everything in-between. Since the art often takes place in a formal setting with an apprentice and mentor, it is inaccessible to a wider audience.

In her workshop, Ellena’s goal was to change Formline’s level of accessibility by teaching youth the art form’s basics and to inspire creativity and build relationships with workshop attendees by engaging and connecting with them on a deeper level.

Ellena says, “I always want to help create for the Indigenous communities. It inspires me to have the chance to engage with youth and people in a workshop where we can all just hangout and do some art.”

  Jeska Slater , Director of VMF's Indigenous Program working with young artists and mentors at Collingwood C.R.E.W program - developing designs during the 2017 Kulus workshops.

Jeska Slater, Director of VMF's Indigenous Program working with young artists and mentors at Collingwood C.R.E.W program - developing designs during the 2017 Kulus workshops.

  Kulus artists from UNYA's OCM Program work with Paul Windsor to help paint his mural located at in the Lane behind 4th Ave and Main Street.      What is Kulus?   Kulus programming and workshops provide a platform for Coast Salish people and Indigenous people living in Vancouver to tell their stories. The workshops allow us to partner with talented Indigenous facilitators, artists, and youth ranging from ages 6-25 to produce artwork for festivals and various events in the city.  Our community partners include Lu’ma Native Youth Mentorship Program, Collingwood C.R.E.W, Raycam Community Centre, and UNYA’s OCM Program. Our goal is to help add capacity to these established programs to offer experiences that build both culture and self-esteem.

Kulus artists from UNYA's OCM Program work with Paul Windsor to help paint his mural located at in the Lane behind 4th Ave and Main Street.

What is Kulus?

Kulus programming and workshops provide a platform for Coast Salish people and Indigenous people living in Vancouver to tell their stories. The workshops allow us to partner with talented Indigenous facilitators, artists, and youth ranging from ages 6-25 to produce artwork for festivals and various events in the city.

Our community partners include Lu’ma Native Youth Mentorship Program, Collingwood C.R.E.W, Raycam Community Centre, and UNYA’s OCM Program. Our goal is to help add capacity to these established programs to offer experiences that build both culture and self-esteem.

 

   Art produced during Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti workshop    The 2017 Kulus Workshops resulted in a mixture of Coast Salish art and Pacific West Coast Formline. Not only did the murals and projects add vibrancy to the city but exposed new cultural understandings and created a sense of pride for youth when seeing their work on display.  Here's a little bit more about the workshops:   Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti    Number of workshops:  9 x 3hr workshops   Partners:  Urban Native Youth Association, Collingwood C.R.E.W. Mentorship Program, and Lu’ma Native Housing BC   Participants:  15-20 per workshop and the participants were between the ages of 10-17.   Description:  The “Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti ” series incorporates indigenous traditional knowledge while developing and playing with graffiti and urban art styles. Participants are invited to actively visualize and embody the Seven Sacred Teachings while they discuss and learn them. The text of the teaching is transformed into a visual representation as participants are taught how to express their own graffiti-style text of the word (i.e. the teaching about Truth is transformed into graffiti-style lettering). Imagery is added to the words such as animals, medicine wheels, and other cultural symbols that are relevant to their personal history, lives, and teachings.   Painted Hides    Number of workshops:  9 x 3hr workshops.  Partners:  Collingwood Neighbourhood House, Community C.R.E.W. and IndigenEYEZ.   Participants:  15-20 participants between the ages of 15-25   Workshop Description:  Our  " Painted Hides" series integrates a mix of practical artist skills and traditional Indigenous teachings to create life-size pre-cut canvases simulating tanned animal hides. Participants learn to scale-up digital imagery using projectors and tracing to make designs. The imagery ranges from traditional Indigenous symbols to meme-culture to community canoe team logos. This workshop will support the development of cultural self-esteem as youth take pride in seeing their art displayed at events and festivals around the city.

Art produced during Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti workshop

The 2017 Kulus Workshops resulted in a mixture of Coast Salish art and Pacific West Coast Formline. Not only did the murals and projects add vibrancy to the city but exposed new cultural understandings and created a sense of pride for youth when seeing their work on display.

Here's a little bit more about the workshops:

Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti

Number of workshops: 9 x 3hr workshops
Partners: Urban Native Youth Association, Collingwood C.R.E.W. Mentorship Program, and Lu’ma Native Housing BC

Participants: 15-20 per workshop and the participants were between the ages of 10-17.

Description: The “Cultural Reclamation Through Graffiti ” series incorporates indigenous traditional knowledge while developing and playing with graffiti and urban art styles. Participants are invited to actively visualize and embody the Seven Sacred Teachings while they discuss and learn them. The text of the teaching is transformed into a visual representation as participants are taught how to express their own graffiti-style text of the word (i.e. the teaching about Truth is transformed into graffiti-style lettering). Imagery is added to the words such as animals, medicine wheels, and other cultural symbols that are relevant to their personal history, lives, and teachings.

Painted Hides

Number of workshops: 9 x 3hr workshops.
Partners: Collingwood Neighbourhood House, Community C.R.E.W. and IndigenEYEZ.

Participants: 15-20 participants between the ages of 15-25

Workshop Description: Our "Painted Hides" series integrates a mix of practical artist skills and traditional Indigenous teachings to create life-size pre-cut canvases simulating tanned animal hides. Participants learn to scale-up digital imagery using projectors and tracing to make designs. The imagery ranges from traditional Indigenous symbols to meme-culture to community canoe team logos. This workshop will support the development of cultural self-esteem as youth take pride in seeing their art displayed at events and festivals around the city.

  Youth working during the Painted Hide Workshop

Youth working during the Painted Hide Workshop

 In closing, we want to give a  special thanks to our partners in Reconciliation, Vancity Credit Union, for helping make this program a reality.

In closing, we want to give a special thanks to our partners in Reconciliation, Vancity Credit Union, for helping make this program a reality.

David Vertesi