The Bill Reid Art Gallery in Vancouver

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

Reid's Haida influence is seen in all his work
"Joy is a well-made object, equalled only by the joy of making it"
Bill Reid (1920-1998)

William Ronald Reid is a world-renowned Haida sculptor who has played a significant role in the revival of the cultural and artistic traditions of the Haida.  His mother was Haida from Skidegate, and his father was of Scottish and German origin.  Sophie Gladstone Reid. His father, William Ronald Reid, was born in Michigan of German and Scottish parents and was an immigrant to the coast. Reid is the descendant of the great classic Haida carver and silversmith, Charles Edenshaw. It was this Haida background that formed a lot of Reids's later work.

Mr. Reid spent his childhood in Victoria and Hyder, British Columbia attending  Hyder High School and Victoria College.  Reid's adult career started in broadcasting as a radio announcer, including ten years at the CBC Toronto and CBC Vancouver while studying jewelry making at Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto, Mr. Reid became acquainted with the collection of Northwest Coast Native art at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Of special interest to Reid was a great pole from his mother’s ancestral village, Tanu.  It was during this time that Reid began to explore his cultural heritage and the art of the Haida people.  In 1958, he wrote and narrated a CBC television documentary on the salvaging of the last totem poles in the Queen Charlotte Islands. A highly prized part of the Haida culture.

Returning to the West Coast

Mr. Reid returned to the West Coast to pursue a career as an artist.  In the early 1960s, Reid spent four years recreating a section of a Haida village for the University of British Columbia.  Among his commissions are the Raven and the First Men, a yellow cedar sculpture for the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the Lord Under the Sea bronze sculpture for the Vancouver Aquarium, the Lootas cedar canoe for Expo ’86, and the Spirit of Haida Gwaii a bronze sculpture for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC.  He has produced jewelry, drawings and silkscreen prints that are inspired by the vast legacy of Haida design.

Reid also received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, University of Western Ontario, Trent University and the University of Toronto.  In 1977 Reid received the Canada Council Molson Award and in 1990 the Royal Bank Award for outstanding Canadian Achievement.

 Bill Reid the trickster

Mr. Reid was a pivotal force in building bridges between Indigenous people and others. Because of his mother, he was a member of the Raven clan from T'aanuu with the wolf as one of his family crests. The Raven is known as a mischievous trickster, who transforms the world. And this was indeed Bill Reid's personality. In 1986, Reid was given the Haida name Yaahl Sgwansung, meaning The Only Raven. Reid's art captures the spirit of the Haida culture.

Bill Reid the artist

Bill Reid created more than 1500 artworks in his lifetime. From large totem poles to the fine Haida art, Reid's pieces captured the Haida culture like no other artist.   You can see the Haida influences in all his work. Reid's works feature many of the animals and spirits important tothe Haida culture.

Bill Reid the jeweller

Reid's visionary skills coupled with his mastery of the techniques thus enabled him to create compelling, three-dimensional  Haida jewelry. With an attention to detail that makes Reid's work highly prized.

Bill's need for understanding the essence and the roots of a unique art form led to the discovery of his own "Haidaness". As can be seen in most of  Bill's later work.

The Bill Reid Gallery

The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art was created in 2008. To honour his legacy and celebrate the cultures of the Northwest Coast. Reid infused Haida traditions and his own work to create both exquisitely small and monumental work. Reid captured imaginations and introduced the world to Haida culture.

Located right in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the Gallery is home to the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Collection. As well as special exhibitions of contemporary Indigenous Art of the Northwest Coast of North America. Frequently bringing attention to Haida life. The Gallery is a great addition to the Vancouver art scene.

Upon entering theBill Reid Gallery, visitors are immediately greeted by Sea-Wolf. The supernatural Haida creature sits at the foot of the Celebration of Bill Reid Pole, carved by Haida master carver and hereditary chief James Hart (Chief 7idansuu). At the top of the pole is Raven, with an image of the late Bill Reid carved into his chest, watching over the gallery and its happenings.

No other artist has brought such respect and recognition to the Haida culture as Bill Reid. Even after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and death.

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