“I’ve always been interested in art. In high school I used to make small wood sculptures and a little bit of jewelry. Art was one of my favourite subjects,” says Angelo Cavagnaro, 20 and a second-year student at NWCC’s Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. “I didn’t really know about the First Nations Fine Arts program until I finished a Career and College Preparation course in 2011.”
From Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh), Cavagnaro started a degree in mechanical engineering in Vancouver in the fall of 2011. He came back to the Northwest to pursue his interests in art and learn more about his culture. In his program he is learning traditional art skills in woodcarving. He carves portrait masks, spoons and different styles of bowls.
“This is a unique learning experience that you can’t find anywhere else,” he says.
Courses are taught by world-renowned carvers Stan Bevan (Tahltan/Tlingit/Tsimshian), Ken McNeil (Tahltan/Tlingit/Nisga’a) and Dean Heron (Kaska/Tlingit).
“My instructors are very helpful and it’s an honour to learn from them,” says Cavagnaro. “I do artwork during the day and hang out with students after class. I didn’t know anyone in the program when I started. Now they feel like family.”
After Angelo graduates with a NWCC Fine Arts Diploma next April he plans to do some travelling.
“I dream of going to New Zealand to learn about the Maori people and their art. But for now I plan to stay in the Northwest. Creating artwork has inspired me to participate more in my culture. Now I want to go fishing and hunting and study the traditional use of plants. Later on I’d like to show others how to live off the land.”