With her own work on hold, B.C. artist raises grocery money for elders during pandemic

A Tsimshian artist in Prince Rupert, B.C. is putting her skills to use to help her community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lianna Spence from Art from Ashes put together a fundraiser to provide food for elders.

“I want to raffle off a tattoo, all proceeds are going to go to buy groceries and stuff for elders. By the time I came home, crawled into bed and was about to go to sleep. I thought I would just check my online banking and fourteen hundred came in a couple of hours,” Spence said.

(Lianna Spence working on her project Art from Ashes)

As the province went on lockdown, she also took to social media to offer online live Northwest art classes.

Spence is an Indigenous artist originally from Lax Kw’alaams, a north coast Tsimshian village.

She started her career 17 years ago and became known for making designs for regalia, painting and carving.

A large part of her income comes from a tattooing business out of Prince Rupert. She also would travel the province to work with clients – but the pandemic put a stop to that.

“I don’t think I have worked in about three weeks, there is zero income. This whole Covid thing, it’s affected me financially and definitely affected me emotionally,” said Spence on a Skype call with APTN News.

Last month, as it became clear that her community was going to be affected she started searching for ways to use her talent to help others.

Spence went to her social media page and offered her art for donations. The response was rapid.

Over the weekend, she was able to raise $3,000.

Her partner, friends and clients came to help her use the money to buy groceries, which would then be donated to 20 elders in the Prince Rupert area.

The doors they knocked on people were surprised but grateful for packages.

“It was so much fun, but at the same time reality that you witnessed, Coronavirus or not, we helped people. There is a lot of stuff going on out there; we don’t know about until we look on the other side of the door,” said Spence.

pandemic

(Prince Rupert elder who received donation package. Photo courtesy: Art from Ashes)

As social distancing rules increased and the province ordered the residents to stay at home, she thought of another way to put her skills to use.

She offered live video classes on her Art from Ashes Facebook page teaching Northwest art.

Hundreds of viewers and their families were able to take part.

“I can teach, that’s one thing I am good at is teaching people step by step. It’s not the most perfect, elaborate piece but it is just art; art is fun, its creative expression,” said Spence.

Parents thanked Spence for having their children focused and learning a new skill.

Families shared their pictures and art projects online.

As the Covid-19 social distancing and isolation continue, she will offer more classes while inspiring others.

“If you do something good, just selflessness from the kindness of your heart and someone sees it, it’s very contagious. It may be small, but it can be huge, it’s like a ripple in the water.”

Video Journalist / Kitimat Village, B.C.

Lee is a video journalist with APTN News, who shoots, reports and edits stories out of northern British Columbia. As a member of the Haisla Nation, Lee is proud to call Kitimat Village home again after living on Vancouver Island for 18 years. He has a passion for storytelling and looks forward to sharing stories through the lens of First Nations people.