Models post in front of a sunkissed tree.
Ay Lelum - The Good House of Design's Yuxwule’ Sul'sul'tun~Eagle Spindle Whorl collection features traditional Coast Salish artwork from the Good family. Photo by Helena Lines/©Ay Lelum/W. Good
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Nanaimo This Week: A Good family win

Julie Chadwick February 5, 2021

The City of Nanaimo announced the recipients of its Culture & Heritage Awards on Monday, which call attention towards community members who make especially strong contributions to the cultural and artistic life of the city.

It seems a particularly poignant time to be honouring the recipients, when so many of us are missing the events, music, and festivals that used to play a part in our lives, whether major or minor.

This year I was pleased to see local Indigenous fashion company Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design receive the Excellence in Culture Award.

I’ve written about the family who run Ay Lelum extensively over the years, primarily for the Salish Sea Sentinel magazine and most recently for Windspeaker, where they talked about their latest collection and the ways they have overcome some of the challenges posed to their business by the pandemic.

Helmed by sisters Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward Good, the whole family collaborate on the art and designs that go into each collection, and work together on a holistic creative vision. For the launch of collections at various fashion events, they also create original music informed by traditional and family songs to be played as their models walk the runway.

Sisters Sophia Seward Good (left) and Aunalee Boyd-Good wear dresses from their Fall/winter 2020 collection in the sun kissed forest.
Sisters Sophia Seward Good (left) and Aunalee Boyd-Good wear dresses from their Fall/winter 2020 collection. Photo by Helena Lines/©Ay Lelum/W. Good

Their father, Coast Salish artist and carver William Good was also the recipient of an Honour in Culture Award from the city in 2018, and their mother and artist Sandra Moorhouse-Good was the recipient in the same category as Aunalee and Sophia in 2002. Their brother Joel Good is also an accomplished carver with several city-commissioned pieces on display in Nanaimo. (You can watch him make a bentwood box here.) 

“They call it the ‘artistic fabric’, right? And the way I looked at it when Dad won his, was that I thought there would be a gaping hole in Nanaimo’s cultural fabric had he not done the work he had done,” said Aunalee, referring to her father’s drive to revive the traditional Snuneymuxw style of art and carving that had been at risk of extinction. 

“But really, we all weave it in together, as a group. So our family, everybody does what they do but it all works as a collective whole so it’s all part of the same work; the same family history, the same lineage. We all come from the same training—my dad’s training was from his grandfather, my mum’s training in the arts was from her grandfather, so it’s all family training all the way down on both sides.”

Both sisters were “completely surprised” by the award, and Aunalee said that given the challenging year and recent shelter in place order given for Snuneymuxw First Nation, “to have such good news was thrilling.”

Other award recipients include artist Eliot White-Hill as Emerging Cultural Leader, Marianne Turley with an Honour in Culture Award, and Christine Whitelaw will be celebrated with an Honour in Culture Award.

A model poses wearing an Ay Lelum The Good House of Design dress from the 2020 Fall/Winter Collection.
Anisa White models a coat from Ay Lelum’s Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun~ Eagle Spindle Whorl Fall/Winter collection. Photo by Helena Lines/© Ay Lelum

In other news

As the pandemic rolls on, I hear a lot of people worrying about how small businesses are doing. As the latest report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) suggests, the answer at the moment is, not great.

“One in six (181,000) Canadian small business owners are seriously contemplating permanently closing, putting more than 2.4 million jobs at risk (20 per cent of private sector jobs),” states the report, which updated its earlier estimate on business closures this past summer. 

This is on top of the 58,000 businesses that shut down in 2020. In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, as they carry increasing amounts of debt with a fraction of the revenue. They’re what CFIB president and CEO Dan Kelly has dubbed “zombie businesses.” The numbers for B.C. specifically are somewhat better but the final outcome of lockdowns and the sluggish economy remains to be seen. According to the report, between 6 and 18 per cent of all B.C. businesses are at risk of closure, and job losses could end up affecting between 7 to 21 per cent of workers. 

Some of their other findings are that 64 per cent of B.C. businesses are fully open, with 39 per cent at usual or greater staffing capacity and 30 per cent making normal or better revenues.

Though this is unwelcome news on top of an already challenging year, unlike many issues it is one that is simple to address on an immediate level as we figure out how to assist zombie businesses in the long term.

As I wrote about previously, Nanaimo locals have found creative ways to help support the small businesses that they love and are struggling, like starting targeted Facebook groups. I’m grateful to everyone that stepped up to support my work with The Discourse, a media outlet that small, independent business. 

Good news

At Monday’s city council meeting, city staff were directed to swiftly prepare a report outlining options for implementing a temporary emergency accommodation program similar to the Cowichan Housing model for Nanaimo. The report is to include the capital costs for 2-3 pilot locations, potential funding sources, estimated monthly operation costs, and potential operators, among other details.  

The City has also opened applications for a new resilience grant aimed at the arts and culture community, with funding available between $1,000 and $5,000. Deadline to apply is March 1, 2021. 

What’s going on?

Tuesdays: Real time reference support with technology, job searches, or navigating educational and online resources. Every Tuesday at 11 a.m., 2 or 2:45 p.m. To book a virtual meeting in advance call 1-877-415-VIRL (8475) or email cc@virl.bc.ca

Wednesday Feb. 10, 4 p.m. PST: Accessing Psychedelics in Canada: Exploring the Legal Pathways. Join an online discussion with four lawyers regarding psychedelics, their efficacy, the potential benefits and possible concerns. For more information or to sign up go to bit.ly

Saturday Feb. 13, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Workshop and work party to learn the basics of fruit tree pruning. Located at the Community Peace Garden, an educational ecosystem located on the VIU campus behind the library, accessible from the parking lot just up from the bus loop. COVID restrictions and safety measures in place, bring a mask and social distance.

Saturday Feb. 27 (and every 4th Sat. of the month) : Virtual crafternoons: Grab your knitting project, paintbrush, embroidery or anything crafty and meet other makers in this drop-in self-directed program for teens and adults. Connect creatively, combat isolation and COVID blues by making together.  Register and receive the link to the Zoom meeting by emailing cc@virl.bc.ca. Phone 1-877-415- VIRL (8475) for more info.

In your words

“Thank you Julie for the hard work you are doing, I really appreciate you uncovering some of the things that I have wondered about over the years!!!”

—Denise C

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