Art Makes Us | Honouring the Past and Looking to the Future

Art Makes Us | Honouring the Past and Looking to the Future


I have chosen to step out on a limb a little bit and support the Capital Campaign for the new building because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s an extension of what I’ve been doing my whole career. The Vancouver Art Gallery probably more than any other institution, certainly in Canada and perhaps even North America, has been very favourable to my field, starting with the Arts of the Raven exhibition. But it has consistently had not only exhibitions in historical Indigenous art but extraordinary, extraordinary exhibitions. We need a new Vancouver Art Gallery now because Vancouver needs to decide what they want to be. Places have identities. It’s not just for artists. It’s not just for the cultural elite. It’s for children. I am where I am today because of my first experience in a museum. We need this. The community needs this. Someone like Donald, his role at the Vancouver Art Gallery is significant because he’s helping us to present in a sustained, more permanent way stories from this place. Having a dedicated gallery to historical Indigenous art at the new Vancouver Art Gallery would allow us to share these deeply evocative objects and the histories of transformation that they belong to. I don’t think that we can ever hope to be representative of the incredibly rich, diverse and numerous Indigenous cultures here, but by presenting some really significant examples of work we can open up a dialogue. We do need to look at the past. There are voices that matter in the past just like there are voices that matter today. It’s important. Objects like this, as they pass through hands, through people who are no longer with us, to friends and to institutions, function as footnotes. They function as a commentary on a greater text, a text of relationships between institutions and “the other,” between “the other,” I suppose Indigeneity, across ethnic and cultural lines to establish friendships and relationships. And I think the important part about it is how does it affect the life of the living. One of the things though, talking about objects, if I can just pick up the pole here. You know, this is the way that we present the object. It’s a vertical presentation, and we tend to see it stacked. But I also want us to think in terms of different ways of looking at the object. If we lay it on the side, we can sort of start to see other things start to come out, like this shark head here. I look at this on its side, and I see it almost turning into something totally different. So it forces us to change our perspective. If we’re forced to change our perspective then we have to agree that there are other perspectives other than our own. And I think that’s the opportunity perhaps for the observers. Which is why we need museums – that’s why we need galleries like the Vancouver Art Gallery because it allows people to look at other perspectives, other cultures, the way other cultures do things. I think it can. I think that’s the potential. For me, this is about trying to do things in a different way now. In a better, more progressive way. This is a lot of money for me, but it’s also extremely important, and I’m also doing it with the hope that it pushes a few other people along. We have the money in this community. People just need to make the choice to participate, and it’s my hope that my contribution spurs other people along.

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