An artistic touch on 2010 

Aboriginal Art Program to make mark on all 15 Olympic and Paralympic venues

Imagine being ushered past a stunning cedar carving of the Squamish Nation’s sun into the new Whistler Sliding Centre. Well, imagine no more — it looks like this type of traditional artwork is going to play a significant role in the 2010 Games.

On Monday morning, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games announced the completion of the first new indoor competition venue — UBC’s Thunderbird Arena — ahead of schedule. During the announcement at the arena, which was attended by Premier Gordon Campbell, VANOC also formally launched the Vancouver 2010 Venues’ Aboriginal Art Program, which will see Aboriginal artwork integrated into all 15 Olympic and Paralympic venues.

Dan Doyle, executive vice president of construction for VANOC, said it was always the plan to include Aboriginal artwork into the venues.

“It’s something that we had in mind all along, and what we wanted to ensure was that our budget would allow that to happen,” Doyle said. “…We’ve been driving to ensure that all our venues are constructed within our budget and it’s very evident now that’s going to happen, so that we’re able to do something that we’ve always wanted to do, which is incorporate aboriginal art.”

Back in May, VANOC’s board of directors approved the transfer of $2 million from the venue construction central contingency account to the general venue construction account to support the new program.

A common misconception is that a contingency fund is just for emergencies, but Doyle said that isn’t the case — contingencies are actually built into the overall budget.

“We’ve always held what I call a healthy contingency for all eventualities that would occur during construction, and as it turns out, we didn’t have to use it all for construction-related activities and so we always had a back up plan to put in the aboriginal art, because its very important to us,” he explained.

Doyle recruited Connie Watts, a B.C.-based mixed media artist of Nuu-chah-nulth, Gitxsan and Kwakwaka'wakw ancestry, to manage the new program.

Watts studied Fine Arts at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and Interior Design at the University of Manitoba. Her artwork has been shown across North America, and she is continuously working on commissioned work for various corporate and private collectors, with the largest installation being the Thunderbird sculpture, Hetux, at the Vancouver International Airport.

“I really wanted to have somebody on our team who really understood the cultural aspects of art and who could ensure that when we’re talking about an Aboriginal art program, that we delivered the very best,” Doyle said.

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