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Aboriginal Curatorial Collective: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities; and Round Table Final Report

January 11, 200611 January 2006

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These reports are the first steps in an attempt to create a vibrant Aboriginal voice in visual arts curation in Canada. The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective believes that their efforts could help rectify a lack of Aboriginal-driven exhibitions and reduce “the marginality of Aboriginal artists and curators”.

The Issues, Challenges and Opportunities report outlines the need and rationale to “improve the existing and long-term opportunities for Aboriginal curators and curatorial residents” and work “towards building a level playing field to address the current discrepancies that exist in non-Aboriginal institutions where Aboriginal curators and residents work and in the writing and publication community at large”.

The report follows a previous meeting in 1997 that attempted to shape the future of Aboriginal curatorial practice. The report notes that only two of the 12 participants from that meeting are still employed as curators. On the whole, the report argues that “there is an under-representation of gainfully employed Aboriginal curators resulting in a noticeable absence of documented activity and quality publications of curatorial writings by Aboriginal curators”. The report argues that “the arts and academic community writ large needs to be better informed by Aboriginal voices offering accurate information about what is being exhibited and experienced”.

The Round Table Final Report summarizes two days of discussions in June 2005 regarding short and long-term issues, challenges and opportunities in achieving “a greater recognition and rightful place within the discourse of art and history” for Aboriginal curators and artists.

Connections with community are key: “our approach to curatorial practice should be one to connect and recognize our own community as a focal point, whether it be young or old, from urban, reserve, or north or south populations”. Community would also provide a “catalyst that can give power to our voice”. The collective’s efforts are seen in the context of a reclaiming of identities. As one participant noted: “We need to tell our own story, because it speaks of our unique experiences and histories.”

Participants discussed the need to develop appropriate language and a “framework for an Aboriginal art history outside of the dominant Western discourse”. The discussions also covered artist fees, exhibition fees, copyright, artist-curator relations, and moral rights. Topics identified for further inquiry include intellectual property rights, protection of traditional knowledge, promotion and exploitation in curatorial practice, naming and authority.

The report outlines 24 immediate, short-term and long-term objectives for enhancing the Aboriginal presence in visual arts. Networking is seen as “vital and imperative if an Aboriginal arts discourse is going to thrive and make known our important contributions”.

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