It’s no secret that many of the western world’s art institutes have been stuck in many isolating, regressive trends. With predominantly white, Euro-centric viewpoints, collections, and heads, this narrow lens often supports a colonial understanding of the art world with little speaking to the creations and experiences of Indigenous peoples. This past year saw the National Gallery of Canada implement a massive restructuring to address this from the ground up, and we are now seeing the next steps of this vision with the announcement of a Department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization.
In a press release this past week the NGC revealed this new division for the gallery. Along with announcing the creation of the Department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization, the gallery has appointed Steven Loft as its Vice President and Michelle LaVallee as its Director. Loft has held the position of Director for Canada Council for the Arts’ Strategic Initiatives for Indigenous Arts and Culture, and LaVallee is the Director of the Indigenous Art Centre at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. The pair will work together with one another, senior management of the NGC, as well as its education and curatorial departments to implement the gallery’s vision in regards to representing and communicating with Indigenous peoples and culture.
Loft states that he’s “excited to be joining the Gallery team at such a transformational time. For Indigenous peoples and others who have not seen themselves in the narratives of this land, it’s time for their stories to be forefront in our shared journey of decolonization and society building.”
“I believe the Gallery is a site for storytelling and knowledge sharing with and in service of Indigenous Peoples,” LaVallee says in the press release. I am invested in change, and work to challenge historical relationships with art and history museums towards respect, trust, reciprocity and accountability towards a new way of engaging with people, space, and the land.”
This restructuring and refocussing that the National Gallery of Canada is implementing are truly unprecedented across the nation’s artistic powerhouses, and it’s been a long time coming. But without a doubt, the gallery’s Transform Together strategic plan and the establishment of this new branch seems to be to the great benefit of both the institution and the public. Through a truly fundamental shift in priority and a broadened view of this land’s artists, there is a better understanding of its history, its present, and its future. It enriches the tapestry by which we understand how art has existed and will continue to exist, and it seems that the Department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization is just one more step in a strong march forward.