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The story behind the Aboriginal art in OneCap's Burnaby office

January 26, 2023
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Stepping into Meridian OneCap’s new Burnaby Headquarters, you’ll notice the space reflects our values: it’s open, it’s accessible. But also important to us, the art hanging on the walls was purchased from local, First Nations artists. Their story is one that is important to impart — and we decided when furnishing the new space this fall, was also important to fund.

“The pieces are a beautiful reminder of our commitment and responsibility to improve relationships between nations and to improve our understanding of local indigenous people and their cultures,” Meridian OneCap’s president Hugh Swandel said.

Partnering with Skwachàys

We were able to support the work of local, First Nations artists by purchasing five pieces of artwork from Skwachàys Lodge Indigenous Hotel and Gallery. The CEO of our parent company Meridian Credit Union, Jay-Ann Gilfoy, was familiar with this gallery and its role in supporting artists living and working in Vancouver.

Skwachàys is a unique Indigenous social enterprise which combines a boutique hotel with a street-level art gallery that supports on-site housing and studio space for 24 Indigenous artists.

It was created in 2012 by the Vancouver Native Housing Society, after they identified the vulnerability of many urban Indigenous artists. To address the social and economic inequities facing Indigenous artists, they created a live/work complex with a built-in gallery and community production space. Meridian OneCap employee Raina Wei spent an afternoon at the gallery selecting pieces that she felt complimented the space and are important to display to our clients and friends because of the artists' unique perspectives.

Artists featured in our space

Lyle Campbell’s work is on display in the conference room. His prints in blue have a “style utilizing a more free-flowing design, applying bright colors and incorporating a playful, contemporary perspective,” according to his personal website. Campbell is of the Sta-Sta-aas, Songalth Tribe of the Kaighani People of Haida Gwaii.

The office also features a large-format painting from Vancouver-based Richard Shorty, depicting whales in a traditional style with impressive mastery of color and movement. A self-taught artist, he is from Yukon Territory and belongs to the Northern Tuchone Tribe.

A work from Garnet Tobacco, a Cree artist, also hangs in the Burnaby office. Many of his pieces are colorful, fluid and depicting nature. The piece in our office depicts a sea turtle.

The drawings of Clifton Fred are hanging in the office, too. He is a Crow from the Tlingit Tribe and is also from Yukon Territory. The gallery described his background and style: “He began drawing in grade one and taught himself to express his feelings and experiences about his people in a medium of drawing and poetry.”

Supporting the community

For Jay-Ann Gilfoy and Hugh Swandel, it’s important for Meridian to support the mission of Skwachàys and the work of these talented artists as OneCap extends its footprint into the Vancouver area.

“As an organization we feel it is important to support the community where we generate business,” said Meridian OneCap president Hugh Swandel. “Our office is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish, Squamish, Musqueam, Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Supporting artists from these communities is an expression of our gratitude for their care of these lands and waters.”

For Jay-Ann Gilfoy and Hugh Swandel, it’s important for Meridian to support the mission of Skwachàys and the work of these talented artists as OneCap extends its footprint into the Vancouver area.

“As an organization we feel it is important to support the community where we generate business,” said Meridian OneCap president Hugh Swandel. “Our office is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish, Squamish, Musqueam, Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Supporting artists from these communities is an expression of our gratitude for their care of these lands and waters.”

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