Once again, our area way up here in the so-called middle of nowhere has come through with some recognition that seems almost impossible but is certainly understandable.
First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers has been nominated for a Grammy award.
“I woke up the other morning with a phone call and with tweets. And it’s still going crazy. I said ‘What? A Grammy? Somebody has made a mistake. I didn’t do any music,’ ” he said.
It was not a mistake. Vickers was nominated for the presentation box he developed for the Grateful Dead box set. Others nominations included Guns N Roses and Weird Al Yankovic box sets.
“It’s pretty exciting. I don’t do the work for nominations. I do it because I love it,” he said.
Vickers has been doing this kind of work for 44 years.
“When I did the work for the Grateful Dead, it was a three-year project and when the presentation box came out, I thought that it was one of the highlights of my entire life as an artist,” he said.
It’s has been a very long and successful career for the member of the Order of Canada from the Hazeltons area.
It has not always been a smooth road. When he began his artistic works, he didn’t know it would become a career. Besides that, he did not know of some of the bumps in the road that so many experience.
“In my teen years I came across discrimination for the first time in my life. I’m very careful to use the word discrimination and not racism. I don’t think that racism is a very intelligent word to use because as far as I know, there is only one race of human beings and we all belong to it,” he explained.
When looking at the causes of this discrimination he looked at the roots of his heritage and the more he learned, the more he became excited about them. As a result of his studies, he thought that it would be useful to inform those people who do not know who you really are.
He feels that is how he got into his art form and he produced that art to show and teach people around the world. While he feels that he has been able to reach out to many people, this year with the Grateful Dead presentation box and the Grammy nomination, he has been able to do more than he has been able to do in 44 years.
“For me my life’s quest became learning and then teaching. When I got into the art work I never dreamed that I could support myself for four or five or six decades. The older I get, the more I’m able to see that I have been able to reach people in this world,” he said.
Currently, he is working on a few books. One is about colour and the other one is about the illustrated oral history of British Columbia.
He feels that he has been truly blessed to be able to make what might have been a hobby into a career. Recently, he has been teaching about art.
“I travel to school districts and meet with superintendents, principals, vice principals and teachers. It’s good to be able to reach teachers because they are able to reach thousands of students,” he said.
Vickers feels that inspired art comes from the spirit.
“Our soul is our mind and who you feel when you speak to me. Our spirit is something that you cannot see and a lot of artists work from their intellect or their soul but when you are doing that you are not reaching the depth of who you are,” he said.
He explains that the word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspiritus, literally meaning “the breath of god respirating you.”
“If you create from inspiration, you create from all of your teachers, all of your ancestors, everyone who has lived before you plus the Great Creator. When you create from that place, it’s always exciting and you never tire of the outcome,” he said.
“I made a promise to myself as a young artist that I would never create anything without feeling those eagle bumps in the back of my neck. I know the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts” he said.
Vickers has great respect for music, which he considers to be the purest form of art.
He feels that The Grateful Dead work outside the box and are not afraid to be very original.
“It’s been a wonderful ride and I have been blessed to have people who have given me good advice and I had good enough sense to say ‘maybe that is a good idea.’ That’s how the gallery developed in Tofino. Its been 32 years of incredible exposure to millions of people. If I win the Grammy, it will be the culmination of 44 years of work that when I started I couldn’t even dream could be done,” he said.