The University of British Columbia is offering First Nations artists a means for possibly turbocharging their incomes.
The B.C. Aboriginal Doors program was conceived by UBC forestry professor Chris Gaston and Brenda Crabtree, the aboriginal program manager at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
There's a $2-billion worldwide market for indigenous art, according to Gaston, who's UBC's liaison to FPInnovations. It's a nonprofit science-based organization that helps aboriginal communities enhance economic opportunities through forestry and wood products.
Under the B.C. Aboriginal Doors program, carvers spend four weeks free of charge learning from mentors at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver or the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace.
When the program debuted last summer, 10 artists each hand-carved an elaborate design on a 26" X 70" door.
"These story panels are actually carved from both yellow cedar and red cedar," Crabtree says in the video below. "This project also embraces the cultural connection that aboriginal artists have to cedar. Cedar for aboriginal artists throughout B.C. is actually our tree of life."
Gaston said the next step is "to bring technology into the equation" by helping artists do limited-edition prints with modern scanning and computer-numerical-control technology.
According to Gaston, the original carved doors might sell for $20,000, but there's a limited market of people willing to pay that price.
Reproductions, however, can sell for smaller prices, just as prints sell for less than the price of an original painting.
The goal is to make the work of B.C. aboriginal artists more accessible to a larger number of buyers around the world, thereby increasing the amount of money they can make from their carvings.