Speaker/s Name: Mandy Salter (Director/Curator, Art Gallery Mississauga)
In 2017 Canada will celebrate its Sesquicentennial Anniversary of Confederation. A time to honour Canadian nation builders and change makers, many anticipate a year that will celebrate and strengthen the diversity of our country. Only twenty four years ago another anniversary was celebrated: the quincentennial of the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The year of 1992 celebrated the discovery of this continent, but would also be the beginning of change in Canadian museums and galleries. At this time the National Gallery purchased its first work by an Indigenous Canadian artist; Carl Beam’s The North American Iceberg. Carl’s work would be at the forefront of Land, Spirit, Power, the first Indigenous exhibition at the National Gallery.
The Art Gallery of Mississauga is a young gallery, housed in the diverse and ever-growing Peel community, but nevertheless houses a Permanent Collection of noteworthy works from some of the most significant artists in Canadian Art History. Among these notable Canadian artists are works by several Indigenous artists including Norval Morrisseau, Carl Beam, Rita Letendre, and Robert Houle. Their work tells stories that span histories far beyond one hundred and fifty years. However, their history of recognition and acceptance within arts and cultural institutions is a recent one.
Anniversaries offer moments us to be introspective. What does it mean to house work by survivors of the Residential School System, or work by the first Indigenous artist to have a retrospective at the National Gallery? Furthermore what can their stories tell us about Canada, about ourselves?