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Art access students learn and give back to community

HAIDA GWAII Northwest Community College (NWCC) students enrolled in the First Nations Art Access pilot program in Old Massett in 2009 learned to carve on totem poles that were raised at both new and existing community buildings. In total, 13 students from the Art Access Program were able to work on three poles planned for the community. Students worked under the guidance of Christian White, Jaalen Edenshaw and Donnie Edenshaw. Fraser Earl was the lead NWCC instructor. Christian Whites pole, named Xaad xilaa gyaahlaang gyaaaang, the Haida Medicine Story Pole, was raised May 18, 2009 where it stands in front of the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre. The Xaad xilaa gyaahlaang gyaaaang was commissioned by Old Massett Village Council (OMVC) and was gifted to the villages of Masset and Port Clements to celebrate the unification of the three communities around the development and design of the newly-opened hospital and health centre. Jaalens and Donnies poles were raised a month later on June 21, 2009 and stand on either side of the main entrance to the OMVC office and community hall. All three poles measure 33 feet in height. The pilot project of the First Nations Art Access (FNAA) program assisted artists to navigate the cultural learning that is essential to becoming an artist, said Earl. For many students enrolled in the program, this was their first positive experience in education. The FNAA program, which is now part of the INTA program (Interdisciplinary Access programs), began Jan. 5 and finished June 21, 2009. Classes were held at NWCCs Masset Campus, and at the Tluu Xaadanaay longhouse and two other outdoor carving sites in Old Massett. The program consisted of classes in Haida language, culture, computer upgrading, and career planning. All classes were delivered within an arts context. The goal is to develop and foster aspiring artists to reach their potential as artists, mentors and community leaders. The NWCC Program was part of Old Massett Village Council's Economic Development (OMVC Ec. Dev.) Splash of Art Project. OMVC Ec. Dev. began preparing for this project in 2007 and it continues into the present as another six poles are currently being completed.

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