Artist Profile: Canoe journey focus of talk May 18 at Blaine Library

On July 24, at about 1 p.m., after completing an historic five-day, 60-mile canoe journey, members of the G’ana’k’w canoe family will arrive in Blaine at Telescope Beach along Marine Drive.

They will be the first native canoes in over a century to make Blaine their destination.

Blaine residents Ron Snyder and Cathy Taggett, owners of The Circle of Trees art studio and homestead, and members of the G’ana’k’w canoe family, talk about the upcoming journey to Blaine, and the resurgence in native culture and its relationship to canoe culture in the Northwest at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, at Blaine Library.

Taggett explains more about her history with the G’ana’k’w canoe family.

Question: What’s your background?

Answer: I grew up in central New York state and went to Bard College and State University of New York at New Paltz. I earned an art education degree and came to Washington to teach art in Seattle Public Schools, where I taught for 25 years. In 2004, I moved to Whatcom County with my husband, Ron Snyder, after he retired as principal of Seattle’s Alternative School No. 1.

Q: What have you been doing in Blaine since you arrived?

A: I am an artist who paints in watercolor and acrylics, mixed media collage, and fibers and dyes. In addition to my art, I work on several community projects in Blaine, including the upcoming G’ana’k’w canoe family journey to Blaine.

In the past I have coordinated the annual art tours in Blaine and I helped start the Blaine Gardeners Market. I have taught classes and done presentations on sustainable living, art, gardening and travel.

Q: How did you become interested in the G’ana’k’w canoe family?

A: My involvement with the G’ana’k’w family began about 16 years ago when Ron met a master Haida carver, Saaduuts, who carved a 40-foot canoe, Ocean Spirit, with students from Ron’s school and we both helped with other canoe-carving projects.

About four years ago, the family and friends of Saaduuts began participating in the annual tribal canoe journey involving coastal tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The canoe journeys have created a resurgence of culture, some healing from over a century of having a way of life destroyed, and a sense of pride and community among the Northwest tribes. These experiences have bonded our family together.

Q: What is this year’s journey about?

A: This year there is not a large designated canoe journey, so many canoe families are creating their own smaller journeys. Our G’ana’k’w canoe family will be pulling (paddling) in two canoes carved by Saaduuts from red cedar. One is the original canoe, Ocean Spirit, and the other is the G’ana’k’w, a 22-foot cedar canoe.

The journey will leave from Camano Island on July 21 and will be welcomed at Blaine’s Marine Park at Telescope Beach on July 24, with prior overnight stops at Swinomish, Lummi and Sucia islands. On July 25, there will be presentations by Tlingit and Haida dance groups at 1 p.m. at Marine Park in Blaine. The landing and the dance presentations are open to the public.

Q: What will you be talking about Monday at the library?

A: Ron and I will present a slide show that tells the story behind the carving of the canoes, as well as some history, art, and culture of the Tlingit and Haida tribes and the resurgence of canoe culture in the Northwest. We look forward to sharing some of the cultural experiences we have had. We will also present works of art, both visual and musical, that we have created or were gifted to us.

Q: What’s on the horizons for you?

A: I am creating art in a new medium for me: woven cedar bark. I also have a series of paint and collage canvasses based on my travel and experiences. My inspiration as an artist is intertwined with friends, family, environment, and the ever-changing events in my life.