Tucked in the corner at the top of a flight of stairs at École Willows Elementary, artist Dorothy Jarvis translates images of old to a refurbished piano. At times floods of children pass through while on her panel aboriginal mothers tend to babies and make food.
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Jarvis began oil painting rich B.C. history more than two decades ago. Her grandparents and mother were Tsimshian, from the Village of Port Simpson.
“I try to keep my family’s culture alive,” said Jarvis, of Tsimshian and Scottish descent. “I’m humbled to do it. It’s an honour to capture the images.”
She enjoys the work at Willows school, greeting kids each day, and is inspired by their keen interest in her work.
“As it’s progressing they stop and see what I’ve done today,” she said. “They’re so flattering.”
The top of the piano, the ‘canvas’ facing the sky will feature a totem pole of her father’s that she’s titling Going Back to the Earth as the traditional totems do.
“She is a very fine painter and she has a strong following for her work,” said arts laureate Barbara Adams.
The piano is among four painted by local artists that return this summer for the public to play and enjoy.
“I’m happy to be painting. It’s nice to have my work someplace so totally different,” said Jarvis.
The Port Alberni artist is a frequent visitor to Victoria where Alcheringa Gallery carries her work.
“I travel to paint, I went back to Port Simpson,” she said. This summer she heads to Bamfield where she plans to paint the Huu-ay-aht territory in preparation for her October show at Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria.
The piano Oak Bay artist Robert Amos painted in 2014 that usually fills a corner in the lobby of Oak Bay municipal hall is joined this year by instruments painted by Jarvis, Jonathan Gleed and Peter Van Giesen. Pianos will be installed at Turkey Head, Loon Bay Park, Cattle Point and Estevan village for the public to play during the day.