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Legacy Artwork Finds New Home at NWCC

It was a momentous event for First Nations Fine Arts students on December 8, 2016 when two carvings, crafted by Freda Diesing herself, were donated to the art studio at Northwest Community College.

Donors Kelsey Wiebe (on behalf of her grandparents, Jim & Jane Christison) and Corey Bulpitt, presented a Wolf Panel carving and a Portrait Mask to the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art students.

The panel carving, done in a traditional Haida style, originally belonged to Kelsey’s great grandmother, Aleza Christison of Prince Rupert. Aleza was an orphan as a child and when she was older she worked as a janitor at the Prince Rupert hospital. She began to purchase local artwork from hospital patients so they would have money while they were ill.

Not much is known about how Aleza acquired the panel carving, however Kelsey’s grandparents found it when they were downsizing their Lakelse Lake home. It was agreed that the art would be donated to NWCC so students could have the opportunity to learn from it.

“It’s definitely some of her early work,” chuckled Kelsey. “My grandparents wanted students to have the opportunity to see how she grew and see that every artist starts somewhere.”

Corey Bulpitt, like Freda Diesing, is also a traditional Haida artist. Corey’s creations draw from his traditional roots, while incorporating his own contemporary style. His artwork includes everything from traditional woodcarving and jewellery to graffiti and tattoos.

Currently residing in Vancouver, Corey made the trip to NWCC after coming across a Freda Diesing mask at the Eagle Spirit Art Gallery on Granville Island, after it was purchased at auction by one of his colleagues.

“I knew about the Freda Diesing school and thought it would be good for the students to see,” said Corey, who wanted students, “to be inspired by the woman herself.”

Freda Diesing was a traditional Northwest Coast artist who was passionate about keeping the art of carving alive. Beginning her career at the age of 42, her work played an integral role in a cultural re-awakening in the 1960s where she found much personal success as an artist. Anyone wanting to view the donated artwork or any other Freda Diesing pieces that the school houses, is asked to contact Instructor Dean Heron, dheron@nwcc.bc.ca 

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