Amy-Claire Huestis is a Ladner-based, visual artist whose passion for art transcends into the community. Not only does she paint, draw, practice with experiential works, books, and performances, but carries immense care and compassion towards local artists, younger generations, and nature, often incorporating them into her work.
Huestis holds a bachelor of fine arts from Concordia University in Montreal, and a master of fine arts in media arts from University of California, Los Angeles. She uses her art to express amazement about nature and its mysterious, powerful forces. Projects like “walk quietly,” a community-guided walk at Hwlhits’um (Brunswick Point / Canoe Pass) in Ladner share the stories of this land from scientist, artist, and Indigenous perspectives, and show how she is inclined towards preservation and protection of wildlife.
Huestis participates in a number of collaborations with local and international artists, while also working on solo projects. This involves exhibitions “Book of Clouds” in New York City in 2017, “Where the Rain Falls without Falling” in Edmonton, and her written publication of In Search of the Perfect Pink, Notes Letters to Photography, Issue No. 4, published in Glasgow in 2018.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When did you join the KPU community and why?
I started teaching fine arts in 2017, and I had just moved back to British Columbia from the United States. I moved from New York City, and I wanted to teach in the fine arts department, because it’s a really good department. What I really like about teaching at KPU is that it’s very community oriented.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
I really love doing community work, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University is very community oriented. There are so many moments with students, classes, and different projects I have done through KPU. In the last year, I did two performances in important bird areas in the Fraser River Estuary. One was on the fall equinox and one was on the summer solstice last year. It was so cool to see students, administration, and faculty taking part in the performances. It made my heart really full to see my KPU community combined with all the other community members and artists I was working with.
I also did a project with Anderson Elementary School in Richmond because I really believe in intergenerational learning. It was really neat as a university instructor to go into an elementary school and work with Grade 4 and 5 kids on an art and science project.
With Birds Canada, we put up a Migratory Tracking System (MOTUS) power on the roof of the school. The MOTUS website is really neat, and once you learn about it, you can follow the path of a single bird, the scientists who are studying the bird, and where the bird went. We did storytelling projects with the kids. Involving lots of different age groups is really neat because working with different generations is a way to include Indigenous ways of knowing in my teaching, and that is important to me.
I wrote a children’s story for that school, and I used it in my exhibition this summer called The Delta Animal Resistance. In this story, the animals of Delta get together, and they decide how to send a message to humans because they are losing their home and habitats.
Birds Canada and I also made an activity book for kids called Four Ways to Care for Birds so kids can have ways to help birds. Children also learn to make a kite to feel the wind and feel what it is to be a bird. It’s a good way for kids to know that the air is for the birds. The kite also is shaped like a bird.
KPU students workshopped the kites, figured out the best kite design, and made the pictures for the instruction booklet. They also ran a kite making workshop with Birds Canada at a festival at the Sharing Farm in Richmond.
What is something you’d like to say to people new to KPU?
I would encourage students to take fine arts courses, because even if they are not studying fine arts for their degree or certificate, creative thinking and things they learn in fine arts courses they can bring into whatever it is they do. You can study digital media, digital photography, or drawing.
Drawing is such a rewarding thing for everybody to learn, I really believe that. It is the foundation for everything. Taking digital photography is also a very important foundational skill for anyone in any job or profession. I have students from all over the university come into my classes and benefit from them. I just want the students to know the fine arts department is open to them to take electives and get to know artists as your instructors.
What are you working on or doing right now?
I am teaching the fourth year advanced studio courses. So our fourth year fine arts students have an advanced studio course that leads up to their graduating exhibition in April. I am also teaching drawing and a course called “Visual Language: Making and Meaning,” FINA 1167.
I am also going to have an exhibition at KPU in the Arbutus Gallery in February with a poet named Kim Trainor. That exhibition will be called “Blueprint for Survival.” In it, we will be looking at my practices of attention and drawing in the landscape and Kim’s poetry about climate change and resilience.
The exhibit started about five years ago when Kim came to visit my studio and saw some drawings of snowdrops I was doing. She wrote a poem called “Snowdrop,” and it’s part of her book called A blueprint for survival. We are going to launch that book during the exhibition.
I have been doing curatorial projects with Kim for the last couple of years, and this exhibition we’ve been thinking about for a couple of years. We decided to have it now because it will coincide with her book launch on March 19. In the exhibition will be some drawings, which are done in series, following sets of instructions overtime. The instructions would be to draw a flower called a snowdrop everyday until they stopped blooming in the garden. So that’s a practice of attention to do the same thing everyday in the same place. Eventually the wall would be covered in drawings of snowdrops over 30 days or so.
The students will take away examples of artists who really connect with nature or maybe they might connect with nature themselves through the exhibition. It will hopefully open doors or give examples to students of ways to connect to nature. I also think it is about resiliency in the face of climate change.
What is something you’d like people to know about you?
I’d like to encourage people to go to the “walk quietly” project that we created. This is an open learning resource that I developed for Kindergarten through Grade 12 and for university classes. It’s all about this really important bird area in Ladner, B.C. It’s a really important spot for migratory birds. You can go on the guided walk or you can visit the website and virtually go on the walk. It’s a really beautiful spot and you can hear stories from Indigenous People, scientists, conservationists, and artists telling the story of the land. So that’s a really neat way to get in touch with a local landscape.