Filipinos celebrate historic art exhibit first in Fort St. John

A milestone art exhibit opened in Fort St. John on Saturday, June 1.

EX SITU, on display at Peace Gallery North, showcases the work of 14 local Filipino-Canadian artists. The mixed media show features paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, and more.

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“The exhibit, EX SITU, is a milestone for the Filipino artists in Fort St. John in that is the first show where we can collectively share our artistic talents,” said artist Ovvian Castrillo Hill.

“Many of us have come to Fort St. John as service providers, and it may sometimes be difficult for us to be known for other things. This show allows us to connect with the community through humanities and thereby enrich the artistic and cultural fibers that make our city great.”

Ex situ means living and thriving in a place that’s not your natural habitat, Castrillo Hill said. “I think that’s what Filipinos are doing here in Fort St. John,” she said.

Indeed, the Filipino community is the fastest growing immigrant population in the city. The community represents one-fifth of the local immigrant population, with 520 immigrants recorded in 2016—360 of whom immigrated here since 2011.

Among them is artist Roleine Paracuelles, 27, who studied biology for a career and has recently returned to her creative habits. Paracuelles has three paintings in EX SITU, part of a series she created through her art classes.

“It was trying to figure out my identity as a Filipino immigrant and a Canadian citizen, and this shifting in between,” she said.

Paracuelles moved to Canada with her family seven years ago. It was a difficult transition, she said, especially moving so far away from her friends. But art has helped her find her identity in a new country, and learn that our identity is, in many ways, always in flux.

“I don’t think it becomes stable that you have this one identity,” Paracuelles said.

“You have to accept it’s always moving and shifting depending on the experiences you have.”

Speaking at the grand opening, acting mayor Coun. Byron Stewart acknowledged the shifting immigrant population trends in Fort St. John, and welcomed the opening of the exhibit.

“My memory of Fort St. John has not been multicultural, but it is becoming so much more multicultural, and cultural, and the arts is a huge part of that,” Stewart said.

EX SITU is lined up with celebrations of Filipino Heritage Month and Philippines Independence Day on June 12. It’s on display at Peace Gallery North throughout June.  

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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