When Two Worlds Collide
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Hello and welcome to this installment of the Belongings blog! As an archivist and music aficionado, I am always enthusiastic about any archival releases that utilize new and innovative ways to tell stories through the strong relationship between song, archives and art. Most often these archival releases are accompanied by newly uncovered and never before seen archival material such as photographs, handwritten lyrics and essays contextualizing the audio release. This particular archival release contains all of these essential components and more, but most importantly what makes it unique is that it involves a one of a kind collaboration between an incredible First Nations artist, Roy Henry Vickers and one of the world’s best known and enduring American rock bands, The Grateful Dead.
Roy Henry Vickers, a Tsimshian, Haida and Heiltsuk First Nations artist from British Columbia was chosen to create the art for the new Grateful Dead live archival release, Pacific Northwest ‘73-’74: The Complete Recordings, a 19 disc, 6 boxed set from concerts in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver and is slated for release on September 7, 2018.
Vickers is a renowned and award winning artist, community advocate and the author of many books. He studied at the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art, focusing his studies on First Nations art and design. For the past 44 years his work is in mostly carvings, paintings, prints and totem poles. He is best known for combining contemporary and traditional forms. "It's just the way I mix traditional and contemporary art work as a Northwest Coast artist who is Haida, Tsimshian, Heiltsuk, English, Irish — I just express myself," he said.
He was first connected to this project with the Grateful Dead through his biographer and sometimes co-author, Robert "Lucky" Budd, a former archivist at the B.C. Provincial museum, who was in turn friends with a Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux, who was looking specifically for an Indigenous/First Nations artist and ultimately recommended him for this project. Vickers said that it took nearly 2 years for this project to reach fruition.
Vickers was very much a fan of the Grateful Dead and was very enthusiastic about collaborating with them. "Music has always been a part of my life," he said. "When I talk about the Grateful Dead..I think about ancestors and a lot of our traditional music is about ancestors so it's really a perfect fit." For Vickers, combining psychedelic and traditional First Nations art came very naturally.
His choice for the boxed set itself was a traditional bentwood Haida box. Including the bentwood box design, the official cover art, “Raven Man” and the accompanying art for the liner notes and the cover for the separate releases of the 6 LP May 19, 1974 concert at the Portland Memorial Coliseum, as well as the 3 disc ‘Best of’ compilation.
In addition to the artwork for the Grateful Dead Pacific Northwest boxed set, Vickers is also involved in the “biggest project of his life,” the Hosumas Project, a large totem pole in which he is documenting its creation using traditional tools and techniques. When it is completed it will be given to his family. He is also working with his biographer, Robert Budd on a set of books about the Skeena River and north country.
Henning, Clare. First Nations artist from B.C. brings West Coast twist to new Grateful Dead box set. Canadian Broadcast Corporation. Toronto, Ontario. 13 June 2018.
Muir, Cassidy. Hazelton’s Vickers creates Grateful Dead album cover. The Interior News. 30 Smithers, British Columbia. June 2018.
Smith, Janet. B.C. Artist Roy Henry Vickers Designs Grateful Dead Boxed Set. The Georgia Straight. Vancouver, British Columbia. 13 June 2018.