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Final Report: Aboriginal Arts Administration Forum

October 27, 200927 October 2009

Aboriginal arts

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Based on an “applied research forum” in February 2008 involving Aboriginal leaders, this report explores “the realities of Aboriginal arts administration in Canada and the needs for training and professional development in the field”. Topics explored at the forum include governance, public institutions, administration, financial management and community liaison.

The report highlights the significant role that Aboriginal arts organizations play in Aboriginal communities, in part by providing “a mechanism for documentation of traditional knowledge, reinterpretation and creation of new works, and the preservation and strengthening of Aboriginal languages and cultures”.

Aboriginal arts administration, at its core, “involves preserving Aboriginal cultures, languages and knowledge systems from the ancestors to the Elders and then forward to youth and generations yet unborn”. Many forum participants indicated that they are motivated by these goals, not only for money. However, participants indicated that there is sometimes a lack of recognition for Aboriginal arts organizations from the larger Aboriginal community.

The report explores some specificities of Aboriginal arts administration, including aspects of Aboriginal history, traditional knowledge, protocols and practices. Aboriginal forms of governance, derived from Aboriginal worldviews, “involve profound historic and sacred relationships to the land and to our ancestors”. Some Aboriginal values that can be important for Aboriginal arts administration include “respect, responsibility toward youth…, appreciation of Elders, kindness, sacred responsibility towards the land and the importance of consensus in decision-making”.

The report indicates that “many Aboriginal creators do not think of themselves as artists. They think of themselves merely as community members, whether they practice a traditional craft or not.”

Also noted in the report is the fact that “the very measure of artistic success can be different in Aboriginal communities…. If the theatre is full, if Elders are present and honoured, if youth have come out, if the community is buzzing about the work, then this is a success regardless of the ‘increased revenue stream’.” Often, Aboriginal arts organizations have had complex relationships with public institutions and funding bodies.

The report concludes with a number of proposals for action, including increased professional development opportunities, internships, mentorships, sharing of best practices, research, and succession planning.

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