Indigenous art and concerts bring Skwachàys Lodge alive for entire Culture Days weekend

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      There will be barely an empty rehearsal hall, art studio, community centre, or gallery in the city this weekend as Culture Days celebrations take off.

      The national grassroots festival hooks up artists and their communities through hands-on activities, demonstrations, and much more.

      One of the new highlights during the Vancouver events will be an entire weekend of programming by the Indigenous artists in residence at Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery (31 West Pender Street). A social-enterprise project built by the Vancouver Native Housing Society in 2012, it derives funding from its artist-designed hotel rooms and the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery for its 24 studio apartments, all inhabited by Indigenous artists who pay minimal rent for a three-year tenancy to develop their careers.

      “It’s an opportunity for us to showcase our artists in residence and their unique skills and expertise,” says event coordinator Olivia Davies, a local dance artist. “We were able to program a great variety, with all the disciplines we have here.”

      Gerry Sheena will give carving demos.

      Among the draws: a fashion show of Jeneen Frei Njootli’s mixed-media textile work, which mashes audio elements on Saturday (September 30) from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Directly afterward, check out a music showcase that features fast-rising indie-dream-pop duo Sister Says with Hannah Curr and Withe. Carver Gerry Sheena demonstrates the way he turns West Coast cedar into stunning masks and other pieces (each day from 10 a.m. to noon), while Sharifah Marsden gives a hands-on workshop on Indigenous painting (Saturday and Sunday from noon to 1 p.m.).

      Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m., check out the free panel called Red Uprising, in which film and TV artists talk about what it means to work in Hollywood and other arts environments today. Participants include Shayla Stonechild, Jordan Waunch, and The Revenant star Grace Dove.

      And for a truly inside look at Skwachàys, make sure to catch former artist in residence Richard Shorty’s tour of the Feather Suite, which he designed, followed by an artist talk in the facility’s Smudge Room (Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.).

      Davies stresses it’s a chance for the wider community to experience all that’s going on at the arts hive. “It’s really important for the community at large to understand what Vancouver Native Housing has done here, to promote the incredible diversity of Indigenous artists who may not be able to afford to live in this incredibly expensive city and to create incredible connections in the hub of the lodge itself,” she says.

      Culture Days events take place at Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery from Friday to Sunday (September 29 to October 1).