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Vickers delves into his past to inspire future graduates


By Debora Steel Windspeaker Contributor Nanaimo







Lawyer Louise Mandell was the first chancellor of Vancouver
Island University to have the honor to sit in the seat of Knowledge and Wisdom. When it was unveiled, May 27, she closed her eyes, grounded herself in a silent meditation and sat on the chair made from reclaimed old growth cedar adorned with 24-carot gold leaf designs.

The chair, part of a suite made for convocation held at the
university, was designed and constructed by world-renowned artist Arthur Vickers (Tsimshian/Heiltsuk). The suite is made up of the Chancellor’s chair, (the Keeper of Knowledge and Wisdom), a President’s and Vice-Chancellor’s chair, the Keeper of Knowledge, and a bentwood box, out of which the university’s graduates will receive their parchments.

It’s a masterpiece, said the VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson, that will inspire for generations.

The convocation suite was unveiled at a ceremony at the
Nanaimo campus. Dignitaries at the ceremony included Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, whose own desk at Government House is a bentwood box created by Vickers. She was excited to see what mysteries in the wood the artist had exposed.

Also in attendance was Wayne Berg, chief commercial officer
of Coast Capital Savings, which financed the suite’s creation. It was a gift, not only to the school, but to the students.

“We know that encouraging people to pursue their educational
dreams is a powerful way to build stronger communities, here in B.C. or wherever VIU graduates’ lives take them,” Berg said. “Now, when VIU graduates walk across the stage and see this beautiful suite built to celebrate them and their significant accomplishment, I hope they will feel tremendously—and rightfully—proud of what they’ve achieved.

He remarked on the birth of VIU’s new tradition for their graduates, calling the pieces together awe-inspiring.

“It’s our hope that these inspiring symbols will also make them realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and that they will go on to inspire other young people to pursue their own educational goals.”

“We live in a world of continuing relationships,” said Mandell, “linked by a higher vision of what it means to be human. To Coast
Capital Savings, the VIU community, Arthur Vickers, and all those who participated in this dream of creative partnership, I honor you. This transmuted spirit of creation will mold the mindset of all subsequent generations.”

The cedar, many hundreds of years old, was collected from
different parts of Vancouver Island. Before work began on the suite, the artist visited VIU and sat among the students, unbeknownst to them, in classes and where they gathered, to listen to them speak, gathering information on what the school meant to them, and how an education would transform their lives, said Nilson. And he came up with a design for the suite that told the story of that experience.

“This has been an amazing journey,” said Vickers. He said he
has extreme reverence for the ancient sentinels. The old growth trees have now found their new purpose, he said.

He took time to think about education and what it was all about for him. He thought about his grandfather who was a big influence in his life.

“We become who we are through the teachings of our ancestors,” said Vickers. “The ancient wood, which has been recovered from Vancouver Island, has seen so many world events and through its growth rings it tells the story of our past and our history.”

The suite is infused with layer upon layer of meaning through the creative spirit of one of our most gifted artists, said VIU’s president.

On the chair of Knowledge and Wisdom, Vickers has placed a
design representing an ancient old being that understands everything passed down from all cultures from grandparent to parent to child over the generations. In that design is the front of the university, the claws of an eagle within the design hold firmly to the base of the chair.

In the chair of Wisdom is the design of a teacher holding her arms aloft, giving her students the best opportunity to achieve their goals.

At the ends of the bentwood box are designs representing students walking up to receive their parchments. The front of the box represents the joy of students on receiving their degrees. These are just some of the designs on the suite. From the back the graduates will see other designs representing their journeys. The artist created 22 original images referencing students, teachers, the natural and spirit worlds, and the architecture of VIU.


Photo Captions:

Chancellor Louise Mandell takes her place in the seat of Knowledge and Wisdom

Artist Arthur Vickers stands with the convocation suite he designed for Vancouver Island University