It is with great pleasure that the Penticton Art Gallery partners with the brand new Outma Sqilx'w Cultural School located on the Penticton Indian Reserve. This introductory exhibit is the fertile first step towards the development of a long term relationship which aims to cultivate a number of community based art projects and educational tools for healing and mutual understanding.
This past September the Penticton Indian Band officially opened the state of the art school. Sitting high up on the west bench, the impressive facility features a breathtaking panoramic view of Penticton and the Okanagan Valley. The building was designed by the Iredale Group who wanted to ensure the school was not only a contemporary masterpiece but was also reflective of the Penticton Indian Band’s culture and history. Commenting on their design, architect Peter Hildebrand stated, “The design brief required that the building grow from the landscape and so the colour palette and soft curvaceous forms mimic the textures of the nearby rolling hillsides.
Chief Kruger describes the atrium as the cultural heart of the school, one that resembles a futuristic version of the traditional pit house. It is a focus for cultural elements of the classes. “I believe that our cultural program and our curriculum was always outstanding. But it is definitely enhanced, I am sure, because of the cultural room. We wanted our community to have the best school for our children. It happened to be the best designed school in Canada, in the top twenty in the world. That’s really something to be very proud of.”
The school incorporates state of the art technologies for both learning and sustainability including smart boards in the classrooms, video conferencing, WiFi, a low energy geothermal system for heating and cooling and more than ample natural lighting to run the school without artificial means during the day. Speaking at the official opening, Chief Kruger said, "We knew that to inspire our children to want to learn about our culture, we needed to create a modern visual narrative of our heritage. This building accomplishes that beautifully".
In this exhibition the students share art pieces based on their Okanagan heritage as well as indigenous plants and animals of the valley. As well, a collection of photographs depict students taking part in traditional activities important to the Sqilx'w people. Many thanks to the students for sharing their creativity and to Michele Woitzik, administrator of the school, for her belief and support of this exhibition.