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Roy Henry Vickers named BC Arts Council’s inaugural Elder-in-Residence

Provincial government makes announcement at Roy Henry Vickers Gallery in Tofino
The provincial government announced Roy Henry Vickers as BC Arts Council’s inaugural Elder-in Residence on Wednesday. ( photo)

Roy Henry Vickers has been named the BC Arts Council’s inaugural Elder-in-Residence.

The provincial government announced Vickers’ new position on Wednesday, March 27, calling it “a significant step forward toward learning and promoting Indigenous knowledge within the arts community.”

“At the heart of our government’s commitment to the arts and culture sector is people - valuing diverse cultures and creating a space for everyone,” said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Lana Popham through the announcement. “Through the Elder-in-Residence role, we are supporting a more dynamic cultural environment for all British Columbians and taking action toward reconciliation.”

The announcement adds that the BC Arts Council created the new role “in recognition of the importance of Indigenous perspectives, cultural expression and self determination.”

The venerable Vickers, who has Tsimshian, Haida and Heiltsuk heritage, is expected to help guide the council’s actions, support community projects and offer mentoring opportunities for Indigenous artists.

“Welcoming Roy as the first Elder-in-Residence at the BC Arts Council is a big step forward in supporting equity within the arts community,” said Parliamentary Secretary of Arts and Film Bob D’Eith. “It’s all about learning from Indigenous wisdom, promoting healing and bringing people together through culture. I can’t wait to see how Roy’s presence will enrich the arts community.”

Vickers is a renowned artist and carver as well as a strong advocate for addiction and abuse recovery who has received numerous honours, including the Order of Canada. The announcement of his new position was made at his gallery in Tofino, a town that boasts a municipal flag designed by him.

“I’m proud to be the first Elder-in-Residence for the BC Arts Council,” he said. “This role allows me to serve both my local community and the larger arts community. I’m looking forward to sharing my perspectives and stories, and working with the council to support artists across the province.”

The announcement adds that the Elder-in-Residence will receive a $10,000 fellowship grant annually through the BC Arts Council’s Strategic Investments budget.

“Through the guidance and knowledge-sharing of the Elder-in-Residence, the BC Arts Council will continue working toward equity and reconciliation, playing a vital role in supporting and strengthening arts and culture communities,” it reads. “This role will also provide enhanced visibility and access to Indigenous arts, culture and knowledge for British Columbians, enriching diverse perspectives and experiences.”

Vickers previously served on the BC Arts Council from 2019-2023.

“Roy had a significant impact as a council member and we are thrilled that he will be continuing to share his knowledge and worldview with council,” said Arts Council chair Sae-Hoon Stan Chung. “The Elder-in-Residence role is about deepening relationships and collaboration and working together in a good way. We are honoured that Roy Henry Vickers will guide us on this journey.”

An emotional Vickers swelled with gratitude at the ceremony in his gallery to honour his new position.

“It’s very humbling for me to be asked to be the Elder-in-Residence with the BC Arts Council and that’s really all I can say. It’s very humbling,” Vickers told the Westerly News prior to the ceremony starting. “I’m not famous. In my mind, I’m not a famous person. I’m still the artist that came to Tofino and got back into my art and made it my passion and my life’s journey.”

He added he had served on the BC Arts Council for a number of years and has appreciated its efforts and support of the arts community.

“As an Indigenous artist of 50 years this year, I find it a beautiful place to reach out to art leaders and people who help all of the arts in British Columbia. I believe our Indigenous voice is very important for people to hear, that the stories are important for people to hear and that’s my contribution always,” he said. “I see the Elder-in-Residence as being Roy the Elder Artist who has thousands of stories to tell about meeting millions of people over the years here in Tofino and how our stories as Indigenous people are welcomed by people all over the world.”

Mid Island - Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne attended the event and told the Westerly she was delighted to see Vickers receive the well-deserved honour of Elder-in-Residence.

“It’s such a testament to his lifetime of work,” Osborne said. “It’s an incredible honour for him and I know that he feels that, but I think it’s one small way that we can all recognize who he is and what he has brought to our community and to British Columbia at large.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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