A new Indigenous painting – Rainbow (Red Tailed Hawk) by Heiltsuk artist Ben Houstie – has been installed in the Willow Pavilion entrance lobby at Vancouver General Hospital. The bold, colourful painting provides a welcoming message of hope and strength to patients and staff alike.
This installation was initiated by Leo Gosselin, a Vocational Rehabilitation Coordinator for Adult Tertiary Mental Health and Substance Use at Willow Pavilion. His program set aside funds to create a more culturally-welcoming space for Indigenous clients.
“Willow is a very special place. It provides a home for clients with mental illness – oftentimes for extended periods of time – as they move through their healing journey," said Leo. “We knew a sign of welcome and a land acknowledgement at the entrance would be well received."
Leo reached out to Katharine Knowles who manages the Art Program at VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation about the potential of placing Indigenous artwork in the Willow Pavilion entrance lobby. In turn, Katherine suggested Rainbow (Red Tailed Hawk) by Ben Houstie.
“The hawk is a messenger and a symbol of strength and foresight," said Katharine. “The artist and this piece were a perfect fit for Willow Pavilion."
Ben Houstie is a survivor of the St. Michael's Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C. For him, art is a part of the healing process.
“As a child, I had the opportunity to watch master carver Mungo Martin work on the world's largest totem pole in Alert Bay. Residential schools were designed to 'remove' culture and promote assimilation and yet, ironically, it was there that I found the artistic traditions of our culture," said Houstie. “I am deeply impacted by the painful experiences of being in a residential school. My art is part of my healing and provides a connection to my culture."
This piece was gifted to VCH and Willow Pavilion by Larry Garfinkel of Native Northwest and his family.