Does art have a role when it comes to the public’s understanding of history and place? UBC Okanagan’s AlterKnowledge series participants will engage in a special discussion about the role that public art may have in shaping perspectives on Kelowna’s history.
“The common stories and images of Kelowna’s history tend to focus on a narrow account of Euro-Canadian settlement and development, and leave out many other experiences,” said Delacey Tedesco, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Victoria.
And while public art may often uphold and celebrate these narrow accounts, it can also powerfully refigure how Kelowna’s history is remembered and understood, says Tedesco.
Artist Crystal Przybille’s sculptures of two important Okanagan historical figures—French Oblate missionary Father Charles Pandosy and Chief Sʷknc̓ut—are an example of this possibility. Przybille’s life-sized bronze sculpture of Pandosy was unveiled at the Pandosy Mission historic site in 2012, commemorating the 150th anniversary of this site. In Kelowna’s public memory, the Pandosy sculpture serves to mark the beginning of Euro-Canadian settlement in the Okanagan, on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx people.
However, through a commission by Westbank First Nation, Przybille is working on a second bronze sculpture—this one of Chief Sʷknc̓ut—which will offer an important companion piece and a permanent public reminder of Syilx presence and perspectives on this shared history.
“The process of informing myself to create the Pandosy and Sʷknc̓ut sculptures has been an unexpectedly profound, and progressively ‘un-settling’ journey,” said Przybille. “It has led me to important understandings regarding the dynamics of settler and Indigenous histories in the Okanagan, and how these histories are perpetuated or suppressed in public memory.”
Students, faculty, and members of the public are invited to come share their views with Przybille and Tedesco about art and the role these sculptures may play in rethinking Kelowna’s public history. This is the final AlterKnowledge discussion event for this academic year. The event is free, open to the public, and takes place at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, 421 Cawston Ave., on Friday, May 8, 7 p.m.
The AlterKnowledge Discussion series, organized by UBC assistant professors Allison Hargreaves and David Jefferess, aims to foster community-engaged knowledge-making, rather than simply providing a venue for the presentation of research to the public. There were nine events this past academic year, and the series continues to bring people together to discuss, share, and learn, and focus on critical engagements with the way colonialism continues to shape relationships and identities in both local and global contexts.