From murals to masks: Indigenous artist inspired by nature, ancestors

Oct 18 2021, 11:46 pm

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This xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations-based artist uses tales of her ancestors and nature to create incredible pieces. 

Charlene Johnny, the founder of Coast Salish Art, crafts everything from murals and tapestries to face masks and jewellery.

Vancity has been supporting people in our communities since 1946. As part of our Made in Vancouver series spotlighting local businesses, we talked to Charlene Johnny about her beginnings, her artwork, and plans for the future. Learn more about what Vancity is doing in your community at 

Charlene Johnny aims to carry ancestral knowledge into her artwork, a theme that is very apparent in each and every one of her pieces. 

Having studied at Native Education College and apprenticing under well-known artists, Johnny is now learning to navigate being an Indigenous woman in an art world dominated by men and non-Indigenous folk.

Working primarily in her own art studio, Johnny has created her own website in order to avoid navigating the gallery world. She has plenty of artwork on display to the public in the forms of murals and even won two artist grants from the YVR Art Foundation under the mentorship of Alano Edzerza and Tsema Igharas working with business, graphic design, photography, glass and textiles.


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In addition to mural art, Johnny studied silver and copper carving in college. She told Daily Hive that she’s “planning to continue working with various mediums to explore and express her ancestral artwork through a number of contemporary ways.”


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Johnny’s artwork and jewellery can be found throughout British Columbia, on her Instagram, and on her website.

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Alyssa TherrienAlyssa Therrien

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