Vancouver Art Gallery names Jillian Christmas its first poet-in-residence

Christmas connects with gallery staff for collective dreams and plans for artistic activations within gallery spaces.

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He Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) recently announced the appointment of acclaimed poet and multidisciplinary artist jillian christmas as its first poet in residence.

According to a statement from VAGChristmas “will work alongside the Department of Public Learning and Engagement to expand the Gallery’s programming while enhancing and elevating the conversations that emerge through the Gallery’s exhibitions and with the public.”

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As a queer, Afro-Caribbean-Canadian, Christmas’ The work considers “issues of family, inheritance and identity,” says the VAG statement.

Christmas previously served as spoken word curator of the Vancouver Writers Fest and artistic director of Vancouver’s Verses Festival of Words. Christmas was the first Canadian to reach the finals of the World Poetry Slam in 2015 and she received the League of Canadian Poets’ Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for spoken word poetry and the Dayne Ogilvie Award for Canadian LGBTQ writers. Her first collection of poems, The gospel of brokennessIt was published in 2020.

“The Vancouver Art Gallery is not just a space to see art; It is a place where art is lived, breathed and experienced. “We are honored and excited to welcome Jillian Christmas as the gallery’s first poet-in-residence,” said Anthony Kiendl, executive director and executive director of the Vancouver Art Gallery in a statement. “His unique approach to her and interpretation of her art through the lens of poetry will inspire vibrant conversations and engagement, adding a new layer of depth and understanding to our exhibitions and enhancing our shared understanding of what a gallery of works can be. art”.

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Christmas will be in its new role until spring. That mandate will include the upcoming A Day of Delight with Jillian Christmas program at the Vancouver Art Gallery on February 6, 2024.

Postmedia got Christmas to answer some questions about his residency, which is titled Toward Delight.

Question: What will your daily role in the gallery be like?

Answer: Since November, I have been working office hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Thursdays, usually between noon and four, during which I have the opportunity to connect with gallery staff to dream collectively, as well as collaborate at planned events or artistic activations within the gallery spaces.

Some days I arrive at the gallery to spend some time alone with the exhibits, learn about the artists, or host conversations and tours with interested gallery users. Other days I have had the opportunity to work with three different brilliant groups of high school students who regularly visit the exhibits. In that work, I use my lens as a poet and multidisciplinary artist to offer a new perspective, vision and action to the work on display; including context building, personal interpretation and reflection, as well as prompts for students to write about their connections to the work. I really enjoyed it and even had the pleasure of having a very capable young artist, Livie, draw me (in the middle of the workshop).

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Q: How will your poetry mesh with the visual nature of the gallery?

TO: As a performance poet, an important aspect of my work is that it is embodied. These are stories that I carry in my muscle memory and, as such, have the ability to move me, keep me in my body or teleport me to past dimensions and, most importantly, help me articulate both with my words and with the words. alternative languages ​​of movement, expression, sound, color theory, flowers, knitting and much more.

My residency exists in response and in continuous conversation with the exhibitions that move through the gallery (present and past) and the artists who have created them. So far, I have written and created in conversation with the works of the late oracle of mental health, Rebel Fayola Rose, beloved Vancouver sculptor Parviz Tanavoli, the late Trinidadian Canadian painter Denyse Thomasos, multiple phenomenal weavers who have been curated within of the premises. The Woven from the Land exhibition, as well as many other Vancouver creators, both living artists and those no longer with us in form.

Q: What connection are you most excited to make between your art and what VAG has to offer?

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TO: One of the central projects of my residency has been a collective grieving process called GOOD GRIEF, where I have built a public, collaborative grieving altar, where people living in the unceded territories of the Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples ( and beyond), they can offer time and attention, writing or singing, to any pain they carry inside. Whether that pain is related to a person, a past version of oneself, a place or even an idea, people have been invited to name them at the altar, which opened for visitors in December. All of those names were written and kept safely within the growing and changing (and slowly decaying) altarpiece.

With the help of friends Anjalica Solomon and Kungjaadee Kennedy, workshop space The Annex hosted a beautiful solstice event that invited people to engage with their grief and the love that drives it. The paper on which each of those names are written will soon be transformed into paper pulp, then into paper with pollinator seeds from the Pacific Northwest, then into student poetry, then planted on the roof of the Vancouver Art Gallery as living representations of our love. A kind of transformation that I hope will flourish for a long time.

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