The Reach Features Exhibits on Identity, Value and Tradition

On January 22 I attended my first opening reception at The Reach Gallery Museum (32388 Veterans Way).

The team at The Reach let me see the bones of the exhibition before the unveiling, which helped me figure out what to expect at an opening reception.

First of all, it’s not as scary as I imagined. The staff and volunteers are warm and friendly. Special Events and Marketing Co-ordinator Cherlandra Estrada even took the time to show me around and explain the difference between gallery and museum exhibits.

If you have the chance to attend an opening reception, you should! The museum gallery was packed and there were appetizers, drinks, speeches and live music. It was an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening. The current exhibits run until the spring so there’s still plenty of time to view them.

Upon entering the lobby and turning right you’ll find yourself in the Great Hall, where both gallery exhibits Decolonize Me and Ancestry and Artistry: Maya Textiles from Guatemala are housed. The exhibits explore ideas of identity, value and tradition.

Decolonize Me features six contemporary Aboriginal artists and explores our country’s history of colonization and individuality. The interactive displays are filled with self-expression yet the pieces are cohesive. Parts of the exhibit were uncomfortable as the study brings to the surface years of conflict and suffering I’d rather ignore. I appreciated how the artists didn’t shy away from confronting the tough stuff and were able to find beauty.


The Ancestry and Artistry exhibit highlights the vibrant resilience of the Mayan culture through textiles from Guatemala. Traditional clothing is an important aspect of Mayan identity and the distinct colourful patterns allow for creative expression and celebration. I enjoyed watching people exclaim over the lovely pieces. Even if you’re not of Mayan heritage it’s easy to relate to the exhibit and appreciate the Mayan people’s desire to cultivate a strong cultural identity in the midst of political, social and religious change.

Museum exhibit 100 Years of Loss: The Residential School System in Canada stretches through the centre of the Great Hall into the hallway. Until May 3 you can wander through the winding columns, viewing photos and reading stories outlining the legacy and impact of residential schools, which operated from the mid-1800s till the mid-1900s.I learned about residential schools as a child but have never considered the lingering consequences to the extent 100 Years of Loss presents. It’s a powerful display.

The Reach Gallery Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday. Their mission is to be the centre of cultural and creative innovation in the Fraser Valley. Visit their website for more about their current exhibits and for the other events and programs available to the public.

Robyn Roste lives and works in Abbotsford. She loves telling stories and learning more about her city.

Photo credits:
Sovereignty Performance | Cérémonie de la souveraineté, 2009
recycled paper, burnt trees, regalia | papier recyclé, arbres brûlés, costume traditionne
courtesy of the artist | avec la permission de l’artiste

Huipil, San Mateo Ixtatán, late 20th century, Chuj Maya
From the Collection of Donna E. Stewart, MD
Textile Museum of Canada  T2012.23.176
Photo by Maciek Linowski