VICTORIA, BC – Artist Peter Wayne Gong is using art as a means of connecting with West Coast youth by providing an example of what can be done through hard work and perseverance. An accomplished Coast Salish artist from Squamish Nation, Peter finds inspiration in his art by drawing upon his life experiences and passing on the knowledge he has acquired to the next generation.
Peter’s workshop is littered with the tools of the trade—modern and traditional—as well as a mixture of in-progress and completed art. He has acquired the machines needed to operate his business and is consistently tweaking and adapting his methods to produce his work in an efficient manner.
Peter’s business has steadily grown over the years, primarily through word-of-mouth and he now enjoys a consistent client base. Alongside his wife, Peter has lived in Mission, B.C. for decades after growing up on Whonnock reserve in Maple Ridge. The two have lived there since Peter’s time as a mill worker at Twin Rivers Cedar, a position that helped shape his expertise as an artist.
“As a First Nations person who has had a productive work career in the forest industry, I thought I could be a positive example to Indigenous youth.”
He now promotes success through hard work and perseverance by working with a number of schools in the Mission school district.
“When I decided to take up art, I had no skill set and no idea what it takes to make a living as an artist,” added Peter. “What I did was to find a mentor. Someone who could teach me how to carve and build my skill set.”
Peter has now become that mentor for countless students in the Mission area. Drawing upon his career, talent and drive, he can showcase potential career opportunities for youth with the right mindset.
“In my life I have learnt that hard work pays off,” he concluded. “It has been said that I am talented. That may be true, but I believe that my hard work, my passion to learn and the push to build my skill set has given me the success that I have now.”
In late November, Peter and the Construction Foundation of BC visited Bella Coola to connect with fellow artists and lead a workshop for teachers in the area on the process of creating a Bentwood Box that they can then pass on to students.