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Musqueam: Band looks to global audience for art gallery

There are high hopes for the Gallery at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre

Given time, proper funding and cooperation with the right partners, The Gallery at the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre could become a world-class, destination tourist attraction, says the economic development coordinator for the First Nation.

Wade Grant said so far the gallery, which opened in June, has only been marketed to a local audience. “We’ve been waiting to get the kinks out,” said Grant of the 1,300-square-foot gallery. “But the next step in our economic development plan will be to market it to let more people know about the Musqueam’s history and culture. It’s time to let go of some of our mistrust and share our culture with the world.”

Grant said the gallery’s location on Musqueam land puts the exhibits into context. The Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre is the same building used during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games for exhibits from B.C. First Nations, including Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. When the Musqueam discovered the building had to be moved from its location at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza where it stood during the Games, the band immediately made a bid to take possession.

The first exhibit in the gallery, which runs now through February 2014, is called Baskets for Barter and features cedar artifacts, including contemporary works to artifacts more than 1,000-years old.

Grant noted the gallery isn’t dedicated to the Musqueam exclusively and will feature exhibits from indigenous peoples around the world. A second display, Te Ara: Maori Pathways of Leadership past, present, and future, is a touring exhibit of 35 prints of Maori people depicting their identity and landscapes. It was created by Paul Tapsell, Merata Kawharu and photographer Krzysztof Pfeiffer.

Grant said despite a lack of space, the band wants Musqueam artifacts owned by other museums repatriated to the reserve. Whether that would be on a permanent basis or as part of a joint management project has yet to be discussed, he said. “We have a good working relationship with the Museum of Anthropology. And our relationship with Museum of Vancouver is improving. We’re hoping to organize something in the near future and we’re open to any and all opportunities.”

MOV curator of contemporary culture Viviane Gosselin said the museum met this week for the first time with Musqueam elders regarding an upcoming exhibit about the band’s ancestral home on the Fraser River. Gosselin added the museum will be happy to repatriate Musqueam artifacts if asked, but to date there’s been no such request. “We have talked about co-management,” said Gosselin. “We have repatriated artifacts to First Nations across B.C., but not all want their artifacts back. But it’s certainly in the air. ”