Vancouver Art in the Sixties

Young Residential School
Artists “on Display”

Early exhibits of Indian children’s “art” made in day and residential schools such as St. Michael, Inkameep, Albernie, and Coqualeetza, and in their attendant Indian Hospitals, were exhibited in public venues such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Pacific National Exhibition, and in Eatons and the Bay department stores. Two unusual teachers who promoted aboriginal art practice in the school system were Anthony Walsh and Rev. G.H. Raley, the Principal of the Coqualeetza Residential School from 1914 to 1934. He included in his manual training program boat building and Indian art and handicrafts: the boys learned to carve totem poles and the girls to weave baskets. By correlating industry and art, Raley believed that native communities could sustain their traditions and adapt to the modern world. (Raibmon 1996; Hawker 2003; Leeuw 2007) Walsh encouraged his Inkameep Day School students to make visual images of their culture and everyday life, and to recreate it as theatre (Andrea Walsh 2003).

In 1942, when Anthony Walsh moved to Port Alberni, he met Nuu-Chah-Nulth artist George Clutesi and supported him in continuing his cultural practices. Walsh used his connections to notable figures in the arts to encourage exhibitions of Clutesi’s paintings in galleries and museums.

St. Michaels Residential School Art Display at the Pacific National Exposition, 1936

St. Michael’s Residential School Art Display at the Pacific National Exposition, 1936

At the same time, aboriginal students who were encouraged to develop their art in post-secondary art schools, such as Francis Baptiste and Judith Morgan, experienced a brief period of fame and institutional recognition, which declined by the mid 60s. Baptiste returned to making a living in his own community in the rodeo and served as a political leader. Morgan got married, completed a BA, and eventually returned to Gitksan territory where she continues to paint. In the late 60s Clutesi turned from painting to teaching cultural practices at the Albernie Residential school. By the time he published his second book about Nuu-chah-nulth culture in 1969, he was so busy acting in television and working in mainstream cultural institutions that he had little time for painting.









April 1, 1941

August 20, 1944


December 1947