By Lindsay Foreman
Magazine Issue: Fall/Winter 2022
“Greenspiration” was the goal of the Green Art exhibit at the Langley Centennial Museum and Township of Langley Civic Facility. This juried show, funded by the British Columbia Arts Council and exhibited February 19-May 21, 2022, spotlighted the sustainable art movement. Green Art evolved out of the Langley Centennial Museum curatorial team’s consideration of over 126 artwork submissions, each created from a minimum of 75% “green” or repurposed materials.
Consistently connected to Earth Day and previously held at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, this community initiative began in 2013 as the Upcycling Design Challenge, jointly coordinated by the Township of Langley and the Langley Arts Council. The Township’s museum team took over the development and installation of this exhibition during the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of supporting and uplifting community artists. Green Art was the second iteration of this community exhibition held at the Langley Centennial Museum; in 2021 it was titled Creative Reuse: The Art of Upcycling.
The overwhelming response to the 2022 exhibition call resulted in organizers requiring additional space, and hence two locations, for visitors to view Green Art. Fifty-five unique artworks created by 50 contributors were displayed according to their main material type: fabric, metal, natural (e.g., wood, plant matter), paint, paper, or plastic. This approach raised awareness about the waste categories created by consumers while demonstrating the numerous techniques used to transform similar materials to create sustainable artworks.
The goals of Green Art were to engage community members of all ages with different ways of using and viewing “old” items from households and workplaces, and to inspire people to creatively repurpose these materials, while simultaneously limiting the consumption of items of convenience: newer is not always better. By both demonstrating and exhibiting sustainable art, Green Art offers new purposes for materials that would otherwise be discarded after their intended use-life. Furthermore, it raises awareness about the importance of mindfully choosing materials and equipment that are more environmentally friendly, such as plant-based paints/pigments and hand tools, in the creation of artworks.
A series of six demonstrations encouraged visitors and community members to engage with exhibiting green artists. Skills shared by the artists included flower arranging, making/using natural fabric dyes, rug hooking, plastic mending, hand tool woodworking with natural stains, and eco printing. The exhibition closed with a panel discussion between four green artists about their creative and sustainable art practices.
Guest judges Alanna Edwards, Art Instructor and Engagement Facilitator at the Surrey Art Gallery, and Courtney Miller, Gallery Manager and Curator at the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge, selected the winning artists and honorable mentions in the clothing, fibre art, sculpture, scenery, utilitarian, and youth art categories. Director of the Township’s Arts, Culture and Community Initiatives Division, Peter Tulumello, selected the Director’s Choice award and exhibition visitors also voted for their favourite work.
Community members and artists will have to patiently wait until 2024 for the next iteration of the Green Art exhibit. The Township of Langley is currently constructing a new community arts, culture, and heritage facility, Salishan Place by the River. With three stories and at approximately 36,000 square feet, the facility will host the new museum and Fort Langley library branch, and include a printmaking studio, four community program rooms, a 167-seat presentation theatre, conference/banquet facilities, and an outdoor amphitheatre and Indigenous teaching gardens. Salishan Place will welcome community members and visitors in the summer of 2023 with dynamic new exhibits in the 8,000 square feet of gallery space.
Construction of Salishan Place began in spring 2021. The Township’s museum team has been working closely with the architect and builder to design and implement a sustainable green facility, one that reflects the communal enthusiasm and desire for sustainability on display during Green Art. Salishan Place will use an electrically powered geothermal heating and cooling system that creates greater facility efficiencies with less energy consumption.
The building includes air-tight insulated concrete walls, a green roof, and triple glazed energy-efficient windows to reduce the building’s energy consumption by over 60% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 128 tonnes annually. Locally-sourced construction and exhibition installation materials are prioritized wherever possible to lessen the construction carbon footprint of the facility.
Additionally, the printmaking studio at Salishan Place will use state-of-the-art, safe, and environmentally-conscience printmaking processes. Bucking the tradition of harsh and toxic chemicals in printmaking, wood dust will neutralize the salts used at the Salishan studio, further spurring community members to find safer ways to create artworks.
Buoyed and yes, greenspired by the local participation in Green Art, the Township of Langley’s museum team is collaborating with community partners to develop exhibitions and public art installations for Salishan Place and to share the perspectives and experiences of those who have lived within the lands known today as Langley since the beginning of time: the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), Máthkwi (Matsqui) and se’mya’me (Semiahmoo) First Nations.
Connected to one another through these lands and the waters that surround and crosscut them, it is our collective responsibility to steward the plants and animals who make their homes here, reversing detrimental impacts. Together, through careful planning and collaborative re-making, we can create healthy, sustainable spaces for the next seven generations of all living things to enjoy.
Lindsay Foreman, Ph.D., is an archaeologist and curator with over 20 years of experience liaising with Indigenous communities and working with material culture items/belongings in the academic, cultural resource management, and museum sectors. She is the Curator of Indigenous Arts and Culture at the Township of Langley’s museum in the stɑl̓əw̓/stó:lō/Fraser River region of British Columbia.