Art donation helps students build connections

A donation of seven carvings from Castley, Jones and Slonaker families will help students from across the province form a deeper connection when they visit UNBC's First Nations Centre.

June 23, 2022
Bev Best holds a carved heron with four pieces of artwork behind her
Manager, Aboriginal Student Engagement Bev Best holds a carving of a heron created by Floyd Edwards. It is one of seven carvings donated to the First Nations Centre in memory of Ken Reid and in honour of Edith Reid by their family.

Art forms a connection to all aspects of Indigenous culture, from affirming life lessons to sharing the stories of families to explaining governance structures. As we celebrate Indigenous History Month, the UNBC First Nations Centre accepted seven new pieces of art donated by the Castley, Jones and Slonaker families.

The donations, made in memory of Ken Reid and in honour of Edith Reid, will help students from across the province form a deeper connection when they visit the centre.

“Having different artwork from different artists helps to represent the vast and diverse regions that our students come from,” says Manager, Aboriginal Student Engagement Bev Best. “It strengthens their identity within a space they consider a home away from home.” 

The seven carvings belonged to Ken and Edith Reid. When Ken died 15 years ago, Edith downsized to a smaller home. Since then, family members have taken care of the art. 

“Our family spent a lot of time admiring and enjoying the artwork my grandparents collected and appreciating having Indigenous artwork and culture in our lives,” says Ken and Edith’s grandson Alex Castley. “My grandfather was particularly proud of his collection and it was very important to our family that, when my grandmother moved out of their family home, we retain as much of that collection as possible in an effort to both preserve and respect the pieces.” 

Castley, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resource Management and General Business in 2013, said his family recently decided to donate the collection to UNBC so that students and other visitors to the First Nations Centre can benefit from having it on public display. 

“Our family agreed that it was important this artwork should be in a place where the community can enjoy and appreciate it,” he says. “We know the artwork will be cared for and shown respect in the First Nations Centre. I truly feel like it is the first time this artwork will have had an appropriate home since my grandfather passed away.”

Among the seven items in the collection are two pieces by Demsey Willie, two by George Matilpi, and one each by William Watts, Floyd Edwards and Bond Sound.

Best says having artwork on display at the First Nations Centre helps strengthen Indigenous identity on campus. 

“This donation comes from the heart. The art will be shared with students who may have a connection to the artists or to the communities the artists are from, or to the stories which the art tells,” she says. “For so long, we were not allowed to express our culture, our language and our true history. Seeing it represented at the First Nations Centre reaffirms our existence today and for future generations who will walk the same halls and feel a sense of connection.”