A Story of Storytelling: Listening to Narratives of Belonging within the Indigenous Art Centre
Indigenous Art , Decolonial Praxis , Arts Management , Institutional Ethnography
The Indigenous Art Centre (IAC) is an Indigenous-led federal program that supports “the creation, preservation and promotion of contemporary art produced by Indigenous peoples in Canada.” Presently, the Indigenous Art Collection, around which the Centre is based, encompasses upwards of 4300 artworks produced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit artists dating from the 1950s to the present. Maintained by the Canadian federal department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), the Centre is acknowledged by members of the Indigenous arts community as one of the most comprehensive overviews of the contemporary Indigenous art movement in Canada. The Collection is concomitantly endorsed by the federal government as an historically and culturally significant national heritage collection. The study explores the operational significance of the federal program, in the wake of Canada’s ratification of the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2016, the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action in 2015 precipitating in federal policy shifts and the creation of social infrastructure supports. Through personal accounts from facilitators/receivers of the Centre’s programming, the Indigenous-led management of the Collection is explored. The investigation navigates the institutional processes via individual experiences. Imperatives of ethical responsibility and reciprocal engagement are used as guiding markers. The study generates conversation within and recognition for the unique model of collaborative arts management practiced within the Centre.