The Culture Shock Interactive Gallery is a 100 per cent aboriginal-owned business just off the boardwalk in Alert Bay, operated by sisters Andrea Cranmer, Barbara Cranmer and Donna Cranmer.
Their roots lay deep in the history of the ‘Namgis people, located on the west coast of Canada.
“We’re celebrating our 11th year in business this September,” said Barbara, adding that over the years she and her sisters have “made it work and continue to make it work. Each of us is integral to the success of the business, and we’re still friends so that really helps.”
The building that Culture Shock is operated out of was built in 1938.
Before the Cranmer sisters took it over, it was “our dad’s workshop. He gave up the space for us to have a perfect business location right on the waterfront,” said Cranmer.
Culture Shock offers interactive cultural experiences, led by knowledgeable local Alert Bay residents, as well as bringing together contemporary design with traditional art and that highlight the First Nation’s way of life.
Their gallery is filled with one-of-akind art, jewellery, woven cedar articles, and time-honoured West Coast native designs incorporated into contemporary clothing designs not found anywhere else.
“We all come at this with different skills and talents,” said Cranmer.
“My passion is filmmaking, I’m a documentary filmmaker and I share my films (she recently finished one last year called ‘Our Voices, Our Stories’, which exposed Canada’s brutal residential school history, winning best documentary short at the 40th annual American Indian film festival in San Francisco), my sister Donna has a Master’s in Education and weaves the bark of cedar trees and does a two-hour cultural experience on how to make their own bracelets, and my sister Andrea does healing work and she designs all of the clothing.”
Culture Shock is also offering a brand new venture this year called the ‘Step into Our World, Circle Island Tour’, which is a guided one-hour bus tour around Alert Bay.
“I was in an entrepreneur support program this year, and we had to come up with a new venture,” Cranmer explained, adding that originally it was going to be a walking tour, “but then we realized a lot of our visitors are much older and would love to have a nice, comfortable ride in a bus to help share the highlights of Alert Bay.”
What Cranmer likes best about running the business with her sisters is “meeting people. I get to meet people from all over the world, and I enjoy engaging in conversation with them, finding out where they’re from, what brought them to Alert Bay, and they immediately feel comfortable. They feel welcome, and that’s a big compliment for this community.”
She also feels strongly about representing their ‘Namgis First Nation and their community. “We feel like we represent it well. We need to be the ones leading in cultural tourism, and we feel that we are.
“There’s been a lot of trauma and oppression against our people over the years, and today is now the time to celebrate who we are and we have this avenue to do that.
“We want to welcome the world to Alert Bay, and I know they won’t be disappointed.”