Skwachàys Lodge

by Olivia Davies, Program Manager, Skwachàys Lodge

Actors, animators, beaders, carvers, clothing designers, conceptual artists, filmmakers, event producers, and jewelers; these are the roles held by the artists in residence currently residing here at Skwachàys Lodge. We are a unique cultural hub for Indigenous artists from across North America seeking to immerse themselves in Northwest Coast community. The Artists in Residence program is supported through the profits of social enterprise of Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery and receives no additional funding from governmental agencies. Managed and maintained by Vancouver Native Housing Society, the concept for the Artists in Residence Program came about in 2012 when the society took over the aging building and turned it around from the inside out: developing the ground level Urban Aboriginal Fairtrade Gallery, inviting local Indigenous artist to design the 18 boutique hotel suites, and completing renovation of 24 bachelor suites and shared Artist Studio space. The hotel has attracted guests from around the world for the unique Aboriginal experience; while the residency program attracts applicants at all levels of artistic career development that seek to reach their goals and contribute to the vibrant community of artists living here.

Our model is one of reciprocal responsibility grounded in right relations. Residents who successfully apply to the program are required to provide volunteer work in exchange for the housing subsidy provided. This can include working in the Gallery and providing assistance to Lodge events and activities, putting on a skills exchange workshop for fellow residents, facilitating an artist demonstration or public workshop, or helping in other ways that benefit the Lodge operations. Our programming includes professional development opportunities for residents to ameliorate their business skills, gain financial literacy, understand funding models, access higher education, and develop themselves professionally by taking part in high profile conferences and events. Alliances made with organizations and companies in Vancouver have provided our residents with access to subsidized gym memberships, discounted tickets to events, and even deals for free business cards and website development.

In 2016, our residency program was re-designed by Indigenous artist Olivia Davies, who brought her business acumen and professional artistic experience to the management of the program. A graduate of the Banff Centre for Indigenous Leadership and the Executive Administration program at Vancouver Community College, and an Indigenous choreographer with over two decades of performance and event management, Davies was able to take the vision of the residency into the future. By first overhauling the program admission requirements, Davies then began the process of coordinating professional development programming for artists that would provide lasting benefits for participants and encourage their own agency by facilitating skills exchange workshops for fellow artists and hosting live demonstrations of their work.

The talents of the artists in residence have been showcased locally, nationally, and even on the international stage. Artists living at the Lodge have had their works exhibited in Germany, Korea, the United States, and Mexico and have been recognized by their professional industries as leaders in their fields. Alumni have gone on to build their careers in Hollywood, New York City, Toronto, and other major city centres where Indigenous arts and culture are promoted. Emerging artists and scholars attending institutions such as the Emily Carr University of Art and Design or Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts are living in the Lodge and thriving by surrounding themselves with other Indigenous artists. Shared experiences foster the possibilities for connections, collaborations, and even informal mentorship. Cross-pollination of ideas and talents occurs naturally. The Lodge provides safe, secure housing and 24/7 access to a shared artist studio where artists can work independently and gain support through shared resources. To our knowledge, no other artist residency like this exists in North America.

The Lodge was named in a traditional ceremony by Chief Ian Campbell, the Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation on whose territory the Lodge was built. The Chief tells the story that “Skwachàys” is the traditional name of this area, which is located at the head of False Creek. It refers to the spring waters that once covered the area. The area was rich in elk, bog cranberries, wild rice, sturgeon, and salmon. The Squamish people believe that these waters are a portal into the spirit realm and are sacred. Retaining this name supports the ancient history and connection to the area.

The Skwachàys Lodge logo is derived from an original work created by Eric Parnell, A Haida artist living in Vancouver. The original work was created for the ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’, a story catching project that looked at Vancouver’s Eastside through the eyes of Indigenous artists. Eric chose to represent the idea of forward and back reflection with duplicate Ravens looking inwards and facing each other. The Ravens rest within a circle containing two human hands beneath a stylized sun, giving one a sense of holding the reflection in the light of these two views.The Artists in Residence opportunity at Skwachàys Lodge is a unique and life-changing housing program for practicing Indigenous artists. This includes subsidized housing in clean, unfurnished bachelor suites, 24/7 access to shared artist workshop, and access to programming opportunities for personal and professional development that help artists develop their craft and move into the next phase of their careers. Maximum three-year stay is dependent on successful program participation and achievement of self-defined career goals. Emerging, mid-career, and senior artists are welcome to apply.  Apply today for openings in 2019! Click Here!


Recent public event hosted by artist in residence, Taran Kootenayhoo on December 12, 2018

“Rough Draft” invited Indigenous spoken word artists, stand-up comics, musicians (Gillian Thomson featured in this video), and filmmakers to present their unfinished works in development for an evening of free entertainment held at the Lodge.

Recent public event hosted by Artists in Residence at the Lodge on November 2, 2018

HOT A.I.R. presented artist talks and demonstrations by current artists in residence including Whess Harman (featured in this clip)

Time Magazine 2018 Greatest Places to Stay





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