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Renowned Haida Artist Robert Davidson Coming to Friday Harbor

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

Friday Harbor Film Festival’s FREE Best of the Fest series, sponsored by SaviBank, will show Haida Modern: The Art & Activism of Robert Davidson at the San Juan Island Grange on Friday, April 28 at 7 pm. Artist Robert Davidson and Director Charles Wilkinson will attend in person to speak about the film and answer audience questions. This award-winning film is sponsored by Arctic Raven Gallery. For those who can’t attend in person, the movie will be live-streamed free. Start the film between 7 and 8 pm on the website:

This weekend’s special events, sponsored by Jay and Suzy Wakefield, also include:

Now Is the Time, a 16-minute short film, showing every 30 minutes upstairs at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from, 11 am – 5 pm. Admission is free for the film only.

Artist Talk with Robert Davidson, including slides of his work, on Saturday in the atrium at San Juan Islands Museum of Art from 1 to 2 pm. Admission is free between 12:30 and 2:30 pm.

Book Signing with Robert Davidson at Griffin Bay Bookstore, Saturday from 3 – 5 pm. His newest book, Echoes of the Supernatural: The Graphic Art of Robert Davidson, is available at the bookstore.

Haida Modern tells the story of one of the foremost Haida artists, Robert Davidson. Coming from a family of well-known Haida and Tlingit artists, he has been instrumental in the revival of coastal indigenous art and the revitalization of Haida culture. He is regarded as one of the greatest living artists in the world. The film “features candid and revealing conversations with the artist himself, along with commentary from art historians, politicians, musicians, and family members detailing the importance and impact of Davidson's work. Highlighted in these conversations is the story of how Davidson carved the first totem pole raised on the island of Haida Gwaii in over 100 years … In Haida Modern, we see how Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens alike - inspired by Davidson's art - are coming together to forge political movements led by Indigenous activists and artists, fighting the critical environmental battles of our time.” (Bullfrog Films)

In 1969, when Robert Davidson was 22 years old, he was instrumental in changing the history of his people forever. During visits to museums in Vancouver, Davidson saw photographs of Old Massett Village, with its forest of totem poles facing the sea; but at home, there was nothing left. It wasn’t just the totems that had been razed and destroyed: Haida songs, ceremonies, and culture had also been obliterated. With help from his grandparents, his father, and his younger brother Reg, Davidson committed to carving the first new totem pole in almost a century. The film’s bright, kaleidoscopic scenes show women dancing in their bare feet, men egging each other on, elders wearing paper headdresses, and children drawn in gorgeous watercolor hues. Everywhere is the sound of laughter and tears, as three generations of Eagle and Raven clan come together to raise the pole in the old way, inching it higher and higher, until it stands proud and strong against the clear blue sky.


Each month through September Best of the Fest will offer an award-winning documentary screening along with a live stream Q&A. Programs begin at 7 pm. Some are in collaboration with the San Juan Island Library; others are at the San Juan Island Grange. Since they’re on Fridays, they are a great “date night” activity. Here’s the schedule:

The Boys Who Said No! – June 23 - Grange

Short Film Showcase – July 21 - Library

Let There Be Drums – August 11 – Grange

Alan Magee: art is not a solace – September 8 - Library

Details about the films in the series are available on the website. Mark your calendar and plan to view the exceptional Best of the Fest documentaries. 

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