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This week's Hidden Hero: Lil Laarz

The Hidden Hero Project is a portrait series celebrating the everyday heroes who live and give in Castlegar. Community members were asked to nominate people as heroes back in the summer of 2018 and the exhibition celebrating a selection of the good folks of Castlegar will open at Kootenay Gallery on June 20, 2019.

Partway through the project it became clear that ‘hero’ is perhaps too strong a word. Some nominees flinched at the suggestion that someone would call them a hero. And indeed, hero conjures images of a firefighter, an ER nurse, a superhuman in a cape. These are undoubtedly worthy of our appreciation. But so are the everyday folks who do more good than harm, and hopefully that’s most of us. The idea behind this project is to celebrate the goodness that resides in most people. There are thousands of ‘hidden heroes’ in Castlegar, quietly offering kindnesses to others without ever considering their actions to be worthy of recognition. Yet we all know that a well-timed act of kindness can mean a world of difference. We know that it is the efforts of many people over time that builds a strong community.

One exceptional example of a humble, everyday hero is Lil Laarz. Check out what was said of her:

“Lil Laarz is an honoured Tsimshian Elder who sits on the Circle Of Indigenous Nations Society council. She is a self-taught indigenous crafter who loves to share her teachings within the community. Her craft varies in projects, one of her projects is offering Selkirk college students beautiful feathers to wear on their graduation caps. Lil openly shares her teachings and protocols with the intent of expanding community knowledge of indigenous worldview without expectation.

“Lil has offered regalia making within the community, making ribbon skirts and moccasins. She gave her time, teachings and support with joy. Lil’s dedication to community and indigenous community members is apparent in her ability to be present and make connections for community gatherings. She is a mother, and a grandmother and her family is sacred to her. She has been and will continue to be dedicated to raising her granddaughter in her home surrounded by culture.”

You probably know a hidden hero or two. With this in mind, the nomination form is still available online. All nominations made before June 1, 2019 will be included as part of the exhibition.

Nominees were asked four questions, and you’re welcome to send in your reflections on any or all of the following as well here.

1. What does ‘community’ mean to you?

2. What does being a contributing member of society look like to you?

3. What advice would you give to someone who is not currently engaging with their community but would like to be?

4. What are some of the personal benefits (expected or unanticipated) you receive by giving, by contributing, by helping others?  

This project was conceived of by the curator at Kootenay Gallery of Art and is supported by the Province of BC Community Resilience Through Arts and Culture Grant.