A philanthropic eyewear brand that incorporates Indigenous art into its designs has just launched a new collection to “pay homage to British Columbia’s top health officers.”
AYA Optical, an eyewear brand founded by North Vancouver resident Carla D’Angelo, has named its latest frames after Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“I wanted this collection to pay homage to B.C.’s top health officers,” said Carla D’Angelo, AYA optical founder and president.
“The intelligence, strength, empathy and collaboration in leadership they conveyed during the pandemic, was absolutely inspirational, and I wanted to pay it forward.”
The collection has designs created by Ojibwe artist Donald Chretien and raises funds for the Pacific Association of First Nations Women.
Chretien has been working as an artist for 30 years, and his unique works can be found in some of the most interesting corners of North America. His Vancouver Olympics installation piece, titled: Ngashi Nijii Bineshiinh or Mother, Friend, Small Bird, is on permanent display in Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum and stands 12 feet high by 80 feet long.
On a much smaller scale, the two new optical frames – one named Bonnie and the other Dix – show off Chretien’s fine art abilities and share Ojibwe culture in a range of colours.
“The Bonnie is accented with the artwork of the stunning and colorful loon,” a release explains.
“The loon in Ojibwe art, much like Dr. Henry herself, is noted as a great listener and proud speaker for others.”
The Dixon frame is highlighted with a dynamic bear design.
“The bear clan has significance in Ojibwe culture, as guardians of the downtrodden and extensive knowledge about plants and medicine,” a release states.
Since 2003 AYA Optical has offered “a global platform for indigenous artists to showcase their work, while giving back to the very communities that have inspired the brand.”
AYA has long supported One X One’s First Nations School Breakfast program, feeding over 700,000 breakfasts to children who would have gone without, and has also distributed eyewear in remote communities.
Most recently, AYA Optical has partnered with Pacific Association of First Nations Women in conjunction with their annual scholarship fund. The association advocates for systems change and provides culturally safe learning and holistic supports to uplift indigenous women and strengthen families.
A donation of $10 from every sale of a Bonnie or Dixon frame will go toward supporting the fund.
“The opportunities to help and give back to those in need is one of the most rewarding things about our business,” said D’Angelo.
The first $2,500 scholarship will be awarded in March.
Artists who collaborate with AYA Optical are paid both a commission and royalties.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.