PLRAC executive director accepted into Banff residency

GROUND BIRCH, B.C. — Peace Liard Regional Arts Council’s executive director, Haley Bassett, is headed to the Banff Centre for Creativity for a five-week residency.

Bassett said she was excited but wasn’t expecting to be accepted when she put in her application.

“As an artist, you have to put a lot of applications out there and be used to a lot of rejection,” Bassett explained.

As part of the application process, she submitted a pair of gloves from her We Work with Our Hands series.

Haley Bassett's gloves from We Work with Our Hands, embroidered with a flower. (Supplied - Haley Bassett)
Haley Bassett’s gloves from We Work with Our Hands are embroidered with a flower. (Supplied – Haley Bassett)

For her residency, she will be working on a project similar to the project that got her the residency.

In the series, We Work with Our Hands, Bassett said she is looking at the correlation between Métis land dispossession and education as well as socioeconomic outcomes.

She explained that a lot of Métis history isn’t understood or known because it’s been erased.

“I’ve been looking into it more because I’ve been trying to understand why I’m here, why my family’s here, why we do what we do,” Bassett said.

“Understanding Métis history has really helped me contextualize that it’s not the whole story, but it’s an important part of the story.”

Bassett said there had been times throughout history when Métis people migrated from the southern parts of their homeland to the far north for several reasons.

“Sometimes there were government programs, but sometimes it was general settler pressure that caused Métis people to move,” she explained.

“The north was quite appealing because they could live traditionally still. They could be close to the bush and the Crown land and still hunt and fish without having the RCMP breathing down their neck all the time.”

The piece she said she wants to work on during her residency is hi-vis coveralls with finger-woven elements to continue her We Work with Our Hands series.

“It’s kind of a bigger project, and it’s weaving instead of embroidery,” Bassett said.

“It’s a way to say, ‘Hey, your present circumstances are due in part because of Métis history. and your present life is a continuation of that history.’ It’s a way to show love and show pride in the people who are working in the trades now.”

Bassett said the Banff Centre for Creativity is an essential institute for Canadian art.

“A lot of pretty amazing artists have come through Banff at some point in their careers, so I’m excited to follow in their footsteps,” she said.

Bassett said she is grateful for the support she has from her family, the community and her job.

“Everyone’s just so, so supportive and stepping up and offering to help and make sure everything gets done for the arts council,” she said.

Bassett will be in Banff in February 2023 and will continue working for the arts council remotely.

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