Finding a Voice: Norman Tait

Please note: the West Vancouver Museum is open as usual during construction around Municipal Hall. An accessible parking spot has been relocated from Esquimalt to 17th Street, right in front of the Museum.

Finding a Voice: The Art of Norman Tait

October 14 to December 5, 2015

Opening Reception: October 13, 7 to 9 pm


Please join Bill McLennan, Curator Emeritus, UBC Museum of Anthroplogy for a special presentation about Norman Tait on December 5 at 2 pm 



Norman Tait


Imbued with a deep connection to his Nisga’a heritage and family, artist Norman Tait has utilized his artistic gifts and transcended the quotidian to create the extraordinary. Self-taught, this self-critical and highly engaged artist has researched and explored his Nation’s rich cultural heritage and forged a voice for himself that speaks through his myriad of sculptural and two dimensional works. This voice is driven by a passion to reinvent traditional narratives within a contemporary context and provide ways in which to connect his ancestral heritage to today’s fast paced and changing world. 


For three months this fall, the West Vancouver Museum is hosting an exhibition showing the extraordinary range of this gifted artist. Organized by the Nisga’a Museum, Finding a Voice: The Art of Norman Tait includes carvings (masks, bowls, spoons, and rattles), jewellery (earrings, bracelets, and pendants), prints, and photographs of major public art commissions. Most works in the exhibition were made after 1980, although some were created between 1970 and 1977.


“Finding a Voice: The Art of Norman Tait is only the second public museum exhibition in history to focus on Norman Tait,” notes West Vancouver Museum director Darrin Morrison. “The first was at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in November 1977, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity once again to showcase the work of this premiere Canadian artist for local audiences.”


Born into the community of Gingolx in northwestern B.C. in 1941, Norman Tait discovered and learned from an early age his family protocols, oral history, and cultural ceremonies. To date he has carved 39 totem poles, including those for the Nisga’a Nation, the David Suzuki Foundation in Japan, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the British Royal Family in London’s Bushy Park. He has also carved and raised five totem poles throughout Metro Vancouver, including UBC, Stanley Park, Capilano Mall, and the Native Education Centre. Tait’s work can be found in numerous private collections around the world and in public collections at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Vancouver, Royal British Columbia Museum, and the Canadian Museum of History.


The West Vancouver Museum is pleased to have partnered with the Nisga’a Museum on this exceptional exhibit, along with the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Vancouver, Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, Spirit Wrestler Gallery, numerous private collectors, Norman Tait, Lucinda Turner, and funding agencies the British Columbia Arts Council and the Nisga’a Lisims Government.


The Museum is offering a special talk on Saturday, December 5 at 2 pm, featuring Bill McLennan, Curator Emeritus, Pacific Northwest, UBC Museum of Anthropology. Using historical photos of Nisga’a poles in their original village sites as well as older masks, Bill will make connections between these works and Norman Tait’s practice.


Bill’s research is focused on the material culture of Northwest Coast First Nations in all its disparate locations. His interest is in finding methods to bring together the artifacts or photographs of artifacts with relevant information, combining these with community knowledge and contemporary First Nations artists’ insights. He is looking at ways of making that information accessible through traditional forms of publishing and through new forms of web interface and 3D digital visualization, enabling artists and members of originating communities to examine artworks, photographs and information online from within their own communities.


Please note that seating is limited and available on a first come basis. 

Image: Norman Tait with Lucinda Turner, Weeping Volcano Woman (detail), n/d. Alder, horse hair, 45.7 x 33.0 x 25.4 cm. Collection of Michael and Inna O’Brian. Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery.


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