Roy Henry Vickers plans to use elder-in-residence appointment to mentor young Indigenous artists

A crowd gathered in Roy Henry Vickers’ gallery, which has been on Tofino’s Campbell Street since 1986, as the B.C. Art Council announced the world-renowned Tsimshian, Haida and Heiltsuk artist as its inaugural elder-in-residence.

“I am so proud and moved to be able to announce that this great person here will be the first new elder-in-residence role at the B.C. Arts Council,” announced Lana Popham, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, to the group of people gathered in the space on Wednesday. 

Vickers’ role as elder-in-residence will not only provide an Indigenous voice to the B.C. Arts Council, but also give mentorship opportunities to other Indigenous artists.

“He’s a designer, he’s a carver, he’s a writer, he’s a printmaker, he’s an artist, he has a lot to offer,” said Sae-Hoon Stan Chung, chair of the B.C. Arts Council. “Particularly those mid-career youth artists who want to figure out how to enter the market [and] how to stay in the market.”

But it’s not always about the market and “success in traditional terms,” Chung said.

“He wants to understand where you are as an artist, and help you develop in a way that you want to develop,” he said.

A man in profile.
Vickers has authored multiple books and won multiple awards and has been nominated for a Grammy after designing album packaging for a Grateful Dead box set. (

Mentorship will be accessible through funding mechanisms, said Chung. He noted that there will be funding opportunities for youth to travel to conferences and festivals where Vickers will be featured as a speaker.

“It supports truth by listening to elders, like myself, who have grown up and know the land,” said Vickers, when asked how this role supports truth and reconciliation.

“I’m glad that I’ll have the elder’s voice to do this,” he said, noting how arts, culture, healing and the environment holds a place close to his heart. “It’s one of the biggest honours of my career.”

Vickers represents the wisdom and knowledge needed to heal, said Chung.

For the B.C. Arts Council, recognizing the harmful impacts of funding systems that excluded Indigenous people is a part of truth and reconciliation, Chung said. 

“We want to show Indigenous communities that we’re serious about truth and reconciliation, and we’re serious about saying, ‘Sorry, we didn’t get this right in the past, but we’re trying to do things differently now,'” he said.

“One of the things that we’re doing is making sure that Indigenous elders have a chance to affect Indigenous youth and Indigenous communities with the appropriate roles,” said Chung.

“I’m proud to be the first elder-in-residence for the B.C. Arts Council,” Vickers said in a press release. “This role allows me to serve both my local community and the larger arts community. I’m looking forward to sharing my perspectives and stories and working with the council to support artists across the province.”

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