Skip to content

Vancouver Island’s Pentlatch Gallery showcases Indigenous art from across Canada

Parksville gallery hosts range of works by well-known and less well-known artists
Gerald Fuller recently opened the Pentlatch Gallery in Parksville. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

The new Pentlatch Gallery in Parksville is showcasing Indigenous artwork from across Canada.

Owner and curator Gerald Fuller says the gallery, located at 552 Pioneer Cr., includes art pieces by a broad mixture of well-known and less well-known artists.

“We have vintage prints and also carvings, as well as new carvings,” said Fuller, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. “We really have a welcoming mix of art forms and purchase price, so the person coming in here can spend $2 or they can spend thousands of dollars, but they get to see it all.”

The gallery’s name comes from the Pentlatch people, the original inhabitants of the region. Acknowledging the Pentlatch people through the naming of the gallery helps raise awareness about their history, struggles and achievements, Fuller said.

“Art is a way to really bring cultures together, it really is. It’s the appreciation of art and it really helps everyone,” he said.

Fuller finds all the art and says he looks for both original pieces and limited edition prints.

“It has to be Indigenous and it has to benefit an Indigenous person, and that’s what I’m pretty adamant about,” he said. “This is the first Indigenous gallery in Parksville ever.”

The gallery recently acquired rare piece — Seagull Mask by Sam Johnson, who worked in the traditional Kwakwaka’wakw style using only hand-made tools, according to the Pentlatch Gallery.

“People will see in this gallery some very rare pieces that you probably won’t find anywhere,” said Fuller, who grew up in a house full of art and learned many skills such as silver work, ceramics and taxidermy.

“I learnt a lot of skills but as I got older I didn’t have the time,” he said. “I found the camera was the easiest thing for me.”

READ MORE: Qualicum First Nation celebrates reawakening of heritage language

Fuller said that when people who live on the West Coast think of Indigenous art, they often think of the Coastal style.

“When they come in there they start getting introduced to Cree and Ojibwe art and different styles of art,” he said. “And that’s what’s really exciting about it.”

Fuller was excited to partner with world-renowned artist Roy Henry Vickers — the gallery carries books and prints by Vickers and works with Vickers’ framer.

“We wanted to keep that quality, this consistency,” Fuller said.

The gallery recently hired its first full-time employee and based on the first week open, Fuller anticipates he could end up hiring a few part-timers.

The Pentlatch Gallery is also providing work for people with the knowledge and skills to restore art.

Opening the gallery is a gamble, Fuller said, but he’s got a good feeling and has been encouraged by the number of people stopping to look around and purchase art so far.

“This way, I can enjoy art and then it goes off to a new home, and that’s what I like,” he said.

They had a soft launch recently, which was well-attended by the neighbourhood. A full launch is in the works, Fuller added.

“It’s very important to us to have an official opening with a blessing of the land and the building,” he said. “We’re trying to organize that, but everything’s moving along very fast.”

In the meantime, the gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We have a really good feeling about being here,” Fuller said.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
Read more