January 24, 2013 - 2:52am



NANAIMO, BC: Gordon Appelbe Smith, one of the most prominent and prolific artists working in Canada today, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Vancouver Island University at the 2013 Convocation at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on January 28.

“Throughout his career, Smith has maintained an active presence in the Canadian and international art world,” said VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson.

“His achievements, accomplishments and contributions have been many, and his own standard for excellence and innovation are exemplary to everyone that has the privilege to meet or work with him. It is an extreme honor to recognize this Canadian legend, as he is so deserving of this award.”

Smith received the Order of Canada for his significant contribution to Canadian culture and the Order of British Columbia, as well as many other awards over his lengthy career.

In October 2012, the first public art gallery for young audiences opened in Vancouver: the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. “This is a time of special and particular problems for the arts. Current major forces both in education and in our society tend to ignore the value and contribution of art,” Smith said at the opening. “We must, more than ever, support and encourage the arts in everyday life."

VIU Art Education professor Heather Pastro, who has known Smith for more than 35 years, first met him when she was in art school at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1978. “Gordon was a legend even then,” said Pastro. “I stayed at UBC for an extra year in 1982 (the year Smith was retiring) just so that I could take one more course from this master teacher.”

Pastro said Smith was always relevant and current in his teaching and research. “Students knew, then, that we were in the midst of greatness. It was an amazing experience to be in classes with Gordon because the students would lap up every ounce of knowledge and inspiration that Gordon would give. We knew that he was an exemplary role model and we wanted to form our teaching style from his mold.

“All of Gordon's former students, including myself, attribute our success to having being taught by the finest art educator in the country.”

Born in England, Smith moved to Canada in 1933. During the Second World War, he served overseas as an army intelligence officer. He moved to Vancouver and joined his wife after he was wounded, and completed his studies at the Vancouver School of Art (VSA).

Smith taught at VSA from 1946 to 1956, and in the Faculty of Education at UBC as a professor of fine arts from 1956 until his retirement in 1982.

During his career, Smith exhibited from Victoria to New York, capturing first prize in the First Biennial of Canadian Painting show at the National Gallery of Canada for his abstract painting Structure with Red Sun.

Smith’s greatest legacy is the work he has done with young artists, supporting, inspiring and encouraging them to pursue their goals. A crowning achievement of his career was a 55-year retrospective exhibition held at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1997.


ABOUT VIU: Vancouver Island University is Canada’s west coast university. Known as a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and applied research, VIU offers a diverse range of certificate, diploma and undergraduate and master degree programs to more than 18,000 students on campuses in Nanaimo, Powell River and Cowichan, and at the Parksville-Qualicum Centre. For more information visit www.viu.ca


Janina Stajic, Manager, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 E: Communications@viu.ca Twitter: @VIUNews

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