Vince Smith is a First Nations artist whose carving and painting skills have become well known.
Smith, who lives in Zeballos, and has family roots in the Ehattesaht, Nuchatlaht and Mowachaht tribes of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. He first started carving in 1977 when he was taught by his late brother Gideon.
After graduating from Nanaimo District Senior Seconary, NDSS, he attended the then Malaspina College, (now Vancouver Island University), where he took art classes for a few years.
His abilities were soon recognized when he won an award for Best Two Dimensional Artwork for an oil painting of a self portrait students had to do from a double exposed photo.
He started going to the Royal British Columbia Museum,RBCM, in Victoria to study the art work of elders and also studied books with the Nuu chah Nulth art of the time.
After finishing college Smith worked for Theytus Books in Nanaimo from 1979 to 1980.
He then learned from Tim Paul, who was First Carver at the RBCMand member of the Hesquiaht Tribe and also from Ron Hamilton of the Opetchesaht Tribe in Port Alberni.
He has done carvings around buildings for the Ehattesaht Tribe in Zeballos and in front of the Zeballos Secondary/Elementary School.
The two panels in front of the school feature ocean creatures such as humpback whales on one side and land and sky creatures such as eagles on the other side.
Smith has also carved various decorative paddles and added paint and used abalone shells as an inlay.
“They’re like a whaling paddle,” he says.
He’s also done a memorial to the students of residential schools carved in the shape of a miniature big house and this is located next to the Ehattesaht Band office in Zeballos.
One interesting piece of work he was commissioned to do by local chiefs was a potlatch curtain that was painted on canvas and is hung up in the school gymnasium.
“They hang them up when they’re having a potlatch,” he says. “It goes right across the whole gymnasium. I’ve done four or five of them.”
He was commissioned to create it by different chiefs from the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.
Smith has also been teaching youth off and on for the last five years at the Zeballos Secondary/Elementary School.