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Summer 2021

We Do Not Work Alone

July 30 - October 3, 2021

Opening: July 30, 6-8pm


Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, John Charnetski, Kybor Dancer, Walter Dexter, Kay Dodd, Marty Gross/Mingei Film Archive, Hamada Shōji, Gordon Hutchens, Charmian Johnson, Kawai Kanjirō, Sam Kwan, Maria Martinez and Santana Martinez, Kate Metten, Wayne Ngan, Lari Robson, Akira Musho Tomita, Hiro Urakami, Laura Wee Láy Láq, and Gari Whelon. 


We Do Not Work Alone activates Nanaimo Art Gallery’s collection of more than sixty-five ceramic works from BC through encounters with contemporary artists, craftspeople, and other cultural practitioners. The exhibition includes an archive section of works by influential 20th century potters Kawai Kanjirō, Hamada Shōji, and Maria and Santana Martinez, and films by Marty Gross/Mingei Film Archive. The central part of the gallery will feature new installations by artists Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, Kate Metten, and Laura Wee Láy Láq.


The title comes from the writings of Japanese potter Kawai Kanjirō (1890-1966) who, along with fellow potter Hamada Shōji and art critic Yanagi Sōetsu, founded the Mingei movement, which championed everyday folk crafts made by generations of unknown artisans. For Kawai “we do not work alone” refers to a potter’s collaboration with the elements, and with previous generations of artists. This exhibition both celebrates and flips this perspective, considering pots themselves as social objects that come to life through relationships with users and viewers.  

Museum collections are often compared to graveyards. Divorced from context and out of sight, artworks can lose the vitality that made them compelling in the first place. This critique is highly accurate when applied to ceramic vessels. When they enter into the care of a museum or art gallery, they are usually stripped of their original purposes. Vases are devoid of flowers, teapots remain dry, cups avoid lips, casserole dishes are never heated, and jars only contain air. 


In We Do Not Work Alone, however, ceramics that have been donated to the Nanaimo Art Gallery collection will be presented in an interactive “Library” where pots can be held, vases will contain flowers, and tea will occasionally be served. Pottery librarians from wide ranging perspectives will be on hand to share and discuss works by John Charnetski, Kybor Dancer, Walter Dexter, Kay Dodd, Gordon Hutchens, Charmian Johnson, Sam Kwan, Wayne Ngan, Lari Robson, Akira Musho Tomita, Hiro Urakami, Laura Wee Láy Láq, and Gari Whelon.   


Historical works in the archive section have to remain in cases, but we hope they can also be brought to life through imagination and conversation. As Kawai himself put it “Any work of art belongs to everyone, because it is whatever each person sees in it”. Often when we connect with others around art, different understandings emerge; we hope that conversations between visitors, artworks, and pot librarians will bring new perspectives to light. 


In the central area of the gallery new installations by artists Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, Kate Metten, and Laura Wee Láy Láq were developed in dialogue with the works in the Gallery’s collection. Through their dynamic approaches to ceramics, the artists in this section complicate ideas of use and expand traditional understandings of the potential roles of pots in both galleries and homes. 


The exhibition will be accompanied by a market table where visitors can purchase and bring home wood fired pottery from Tozan Society, a local organization of potters who work together to steward a large noborigama kiln, and a smaller wood fired train kiln, in Cedar BC. 

We Do Not Work Alone is the second exhibition in Nanaimo Art Gallery’s inquiry, What is progress


This exhibition is sponsored by the Coast Bastion Hotel.

huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed


Taking place along the Millstone River, huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed is a new series of artworks, walks, performances, readings, and workshops that will move upstream from July to October. Projects include performances and presentations by artists, writers, scientists, knowledge-keepers, language advocates, and performers including: 


Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun

lichen with Danielle Stevenson

Heather Kai Smith

Nancy Turner and C-tasi:a Geraldine Manson

Justine A. Chambers, Elisa Ferrari, and Christian Vistan

Adam Manson and Xulsi’malt Gary Manson

Billy-Ray Belcourt, S F Ho, and Manuel Axel Strain

Sonnet L’Abbé


The first huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed event will take place July 17-18, 2021 outside the German Cultural Centre at 71 Caledonia Ave. The weekend includes storytelling with Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun and soil remediation workshops with the mobile programming space lichen and environmental scientist Danielle Stevenson. 


Through storytelling, bioremediation workshops, hul’q’umi’num classes and plant walks, film screenings, cedar weaving, collective wading, readings, and poetic responses, huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed invites artists, presenters, and audiences to consider the life of the river. Programs that would normally take place in the gallery are located along the Millstone’s riparian corridor, foregrounding the environmental and cultural resonance of this site. 


A river’s body requires a bed. Lying in the middle of the city, the Millstone River has its headwaters at Brannen Lake. Flowing through farms, neighbourhoods, and parks, by golf courses, penitentiary grounds, and marshes, and under roads, highways, and railroads, it enters the sea at Sxwuyum, the site of the now-displaced Snuneymuxw village. Through waterflow and sedimentation, the river has been shaping its own bed since time immemorial - wearing down soil and rock while carrying nutrients to the riverine flora and fauna that in turn provide life and stability to the riverbank. Since the 1850s, the Millstone River has also been shaped by coal mining, sawmill waste, power generation, farming, blackberries, ivy, dynamite, and construction.


In 2017 New Zealand’s Whanganui River was given the same rights and legal standing as a person. Rivers in India, Ecuador, and Colombia have also been attributed with legal rights. These shifts in legal standing not only recognise the environmental precarity of these complex living ecosystems, but also the inalienable connections between these rivers and regional Indigenous communities. While attempting to grant the Millstone River legal standing is not part of the scope of this project, we endeavour to treat the river as a living entity. 


Thank you to Adam Manson and Elder Gary Manson for providing the hul’q’umi’num title, huli u’tu staluẃ, which directly translates to “life by the river.” 


Considering the river’s shape through time and space, huli u’tu staluẃ / Riverbed takes place in a year in which Nanaimo Art Gallery asks the question: what is progress? 


Registration is Now Open for Summer Programs! 


Meander - Summer Art Camps SOLD OUT

July 5 - 9 | July 12 - 16 | July 19 - 23 | July 26 - 30

Monday to Friday, 9AM - 4PM


20200229 102653Young artists are invited for art making, investigation and storytelling. These camps will feature activities inspired by Riverbed, an exhibition project inspired by the Millstone River and by the Gallery's inquiry; what is progress? We will visit the river and various sites in the downtown and harbourfront for creative outside activities. Led by summer students, we will design, draw, photograph, paint, collage, and build using traditional and contemporary approaches to art making that explore big ideas, big stories, and big imaginations!


For more information on ages, price, registration and more please click here!


Dazzle Camouflage – A Contemporary Art Immersion Program for Youth

Program Dates: August 3-19 (Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 4pm)


Dazzle - group shot

Dazzle Camouflage introduces diverse, global approaches to contemporary art and supports participants to make their own work in painting, drawing, sound, video, photography, performance, installation, animation and more. Inspired by the gallery's inquiry, What is progress? and guided by amazing professional artist mentors, participants experiment, learn, push boundaries and have fun, making projects that are featured in a two day public exhibition at Art Lab.This free three-week art immersion program is for aspiring artists, writers, arts and culture professionals aged 15-19!


For more information of ages, description and application procress please click here.

 Any questions? Need help with your submission? Feel free to contact Yvonne Vander Kooi

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

250.754.1750 ext. 25



NAG event JoelGood websize-67wpSupernatural Eagle Bringing the Sun Back to the World


The story behind the making of Supernatural Eagle Bringing the Sun Back to the World by father-son team William and Joel Good. Installed at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on Oct. 11, 2018. Closed-Captioned Video produced by Jennifer Wynne Webber. Photo by Sean Fenzl 






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