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Freda Diesing School honored for its work

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TERRACE, British Columbia – The Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Business Excellence Awards Nov. 21 and Northwest Community College’s (NWCC) Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art was chosen the 2009 Contributor to the Arts Award winner.

The honor caps a busy and rewarding year for the school, its students and instructors. Program coordinator and instructor Stan Bevan says being recognized by the business community shows the school is effectively connecting with the community at large.

“This award enhances the reputation of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art,” said Bevan. “It reinforces what the students and the college have done for the program and recognizes its critical role in developing First Nations artists in Terrace.”

The School, opened in 2006 and named after the late Haida artist and carver Freda Diesing, celebrated its third graduating class with its yearly student exhibit this past spring.

“The success of the First Nations Fine Arts program is a result of the hard work of the students and the support of their communities,” added Bevan. “It is an honor for the school to be recognized by the community of Terrace with this award.”

The hard work of the First Nations Fine Art students is evident in the quality of their artwork and it continues to capture the attention of audiences far outside of the region. The artwork from this year’s graduating class was on exhibit at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver and three students won YVR Scholarships that included their art being displayed at Vancouver International Airport. Most recently, 2008 graduate Dean Heron and his work for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are featured in a just-published book of Aboriginal art inspired by the games.

Locally, four program graduates finished two totem poles that were raised at the new Terrace Sportsplex and opened The House of Carvers studio to display their work. Two others completed contemporary poles for the Hazelton campus under the guidance of Earl Muldoe.

Finally, current and former students and instructors have been working since the late spring on a number of art pieces that will be part of the longhouse set for a May 2010 opening at the NWCC Terrace Campus and a totem pole made for the Indigenous Qiang people of Sichuan, China and commissioned by Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit and the Province of B.C.

“We are proud of what the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art continues to accomplish and are pleased to see the local business community shares in that pride,” said NWCC President Stephanie Forsyth. “This school has managed to not only play a key role in developing the First Nations art community in the Northwest, it has also helped to put this region on the map as the place to come to find high quality, Northwest First Nations art. This is quite an extraordinary accomplishment, and one in which all of the instructors and students may be proud.”

However, the real pride, states Forsyth, comes from knowing that, through the school, NWCC is carrying on the legacy of Freda Diesing. “Through the efforts of our instructors, our students and those who support them, Northwest Coast art is being reclaimed, the rich culture of First Nations is being honored and a growing community of artists is emerging. And in the process of learning about art, pride is being regained, cultural understanding awakened and the lives of students transformed.”

The Freda Diesing School has graduated 32 students, many of whom now work as artists or art teachers in the Northwest region.

Also nominated for the award were Terrace Little Theatre’s Marianne Brorup-Weston and Terrace Concert Society’s Karen Birkedal.