Kyle Tallio’s art career started by mere chance.
When he was 15, he was assisting his father Lyle Tallio in the painting of a dance curtain for the traditional wedding of a hereditary chief in their Nuxalk community.
By accident, Tallio knocked over some paint and spilled it on the area of the curtain he was working on.
“It was from then that both my father and grandfather started to teach me to draw and paint,” Tallio said in an interview with Black Press Media.
Getting into art wasn’t the only thing that now 28-year-old Kyle did on a whim, either.
His application for the Vancouver International Airport art emerging artist grant started as an assignment during his second year at Coast Mountain College’s Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace.
The assignment was to create a portfolio including an artist statement and some pieces representative of the creator, all to be an application for the grant program—though it was optional to submit it.
“After I had submitted the assignment, I took a little more time to look at it more carefully and make some edits and then I submitted it,” he said.
Each year, the YVR Art Foundation offers scholarships to First Nations artists from B.C. and Yukon who make pieces reflective of the Indigenous culture in their region. Submissions are formally judged by Indigenous artists and curators, and successful applicants are awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
Prior to his submission, Tallio had received another award: a Bill McLennan masterpiece study program travel grant. From this award, Tallio was given funds to travel to the UBC Museum of Anthropology and study pieces from the Nuxalk regional style.
While there he saw a traditional cod mask. In Indigenous culture, carved masks are worn in traditional dances and storytelling, and usually represent an animal, according to the Canadian Indigenous Art group.
Tallio included in his application that should he be an award recipient, he would recreate it in his own style to be used again in his Nuxalk community for its original purpose in dance.
For 2023, there were 11 recipients of the YVR Art scholarship. The scholarships are offered in two categories: ‘emerging artists’ and ‘mid-career.’
The emerging artist category is for those aged 17 to 29, and the funding is awarded to help artists further their development through mentorship or by attending art school for one year.
The second category is for artists 30 and older, with the funding awarded to go towards studying with a master artist, a community project or a one-year study period at an art school.
Tallio now has one year to recreate and carve his own version of the cod mask, and from there it will be displayed in the airport for a subsequent year before it will be donated to a dance program in his home community. His father and grandfather are still his mentors and will be offering guidance with his recreation.
When asked what advice he would give his 15-year-old self as he began his art journey, Tallio emphasized the importance of dedication.
“I would encourage myself to persevere. When you’re getting started it’s a lot of work. There’s a large learning curve in Northwest Coast art or art of any kind, I would just encourage perseverance and consistency and just showing up as much as possible.”