The Honey-Voiced Announcer: Bill Reid
Eleven years ago yesterday, Bill Reid (1920-1998) passed away. At the request of reader Katie, today's "Feel Art Again" post features Reid, "one of Canada's greatest artists," who is famous for his Haida jewelry and sculptures. (Shown above are his Wolf Pendant and "Raven and the First Men.")
1. Bill Reid was of European descent on his father's side and from one of the First Nations on his mother's side. His mother "was a life-long, ardent anglophile" and never told Reid about his Haida heritage; he found out himself as a teen. When Canadian law changed, enabling the children of First Nations mothers and European fathers to gain Indian status, Reid immediately applied for recognition as an Indian.
2. As a "honey-voiced news announcer" for CBC Radio in Toronto, Reid wrote and narrated a television documentary exploring the Totem Poles on the Queen Charlotte Islands. He also narrated another documentary on the "People of Potlatch" exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
3. Visiting Haida Gwaii in 1954, Reid saw a pair of bracelets engraved by Charles Edenshaw, a great carver who also happened to be Reid's uncle. After seeing the bracelets, "the world was not the same" for Reid. In addition to his inspiration and instruction in Haida jewelry-making, Reid also studied the craft of jewelry-making at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and London School of Design.
4. According to one source, "no other contemporary Northwest Coast artist has received the critical acclaim accorded Bill Reid." Reid also received recognition from universities and his country as a whole. He was granted nine honorary degrees, received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Lifetime Achievement, and was made a member of the Order of British Columbia. His work has also been featured on the $20 note and on a stamp.
5. Reid struggled with Parkinson's for 25 years, which meant he would sometimes only have a few hours, maybe even just a few minutes, of productive time. After his death from Parkinson's in 1998, his friends and relatives brought his ashes to Haida Gwaii via canoe. The canoe was Reid's "Lootaas," which he had carved for Expo 86.
Fans should check out the Bill Reid Gallery; the Bill Reid Foundation; the Canadian Museum of Civilization's Reid exhibition; Jack Long's documentary on the artist; and this children's guide to Canadian art.