For WAG-Qaumajuq to grow into its true potential as a safe and welcoming gallery space for everyone, we must decentre and dismantle the culture of whiteness within the institution. This is a difficult process, one that is resisted by the underlying principles, structures, and assumptions that the Gallery has historically endorsed.
We are committed to finding our path towards living together in a good way. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report Calls to Action gave us a starting point. The initiatives listed here reflect our commitment to travelling this path.
Equity Assessment Report and Findings
Recognizing that no colonial institution is immune to systemic racism and oppression, WAG-Qaumajuq made an important decision to be proactive in efforts to pursue decolonization, foster antiracism in its practices, and create a safe, equitable environment for all employees and the visiting public. After a year-long process surveying staff anonymously, interviewing staff and management, both past and present, reviewing Gallery policies and procedures, and conducting planned and anonymous site visits, Equitable Solutions Consulting delivered a comprehensive report with recommendations to the Leadership Team of WAG-Qaumajuq. The objective of the report was to identify the ways in which systemic oppressions may be manifesting within the institution, and provide findings and actionable recommendations that may be taken to commence remediation. View a summary of the report here.
Anti Racism Employee Resource Group
The WAG-Qaumajuq Employee Anti-Racism Committee was created and has been meeting monthly since Spring 2021. All Gallery employees have an open invitation to attend the meetings. The Anti-Racism Committee has the long-term goal of creating an anti-racist environment at WAG-Qaumajuq. Recognizing that this is a lofty goal, education has been the starting point and staff are taking small, incremental steps to address white supremacy issues, both long-standing, and as they arise. The working group members are educating themselves about white supremacy and how it manifests itself in colonial institutions, micro-aggressions, micro-interventions, and more.
Indigenous Language Sovereignty: Article 13
Responding directly to United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Article 13 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, Number 14i, Indigenous Language Keepers, Knowledge Keepers and Elders gathered in 2020 to name the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Qaumajuq (Inuit art centre) buildings, as well as the spaces within.
Inuktitut, Inuttitut, Inuvialuktun, Anishnaabemowin, Nêhiyawêwin, Dakota, Dene, Michif and Anishininimowin now have a permanent presence throughout Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq.
Learn more about the project here.
Safer Spaces Value Statement
The Safer Spaces Value Statement will produce a (1) Visitor Code of Conduct, (2) Partner Charter, and (3) Safer Spaces Value Statement. WAG-Qaumajuq is working with Kemlin Nembhard of Blue Dragon Consulting to formulate these governing documents.
Researchers in Residence
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Visual Arts Organizations
Researchers Audree Espada and Missy LeBlanc will be collecting data from Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Colour employed by the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq on their experiences and opinions of systemic racism in the museum. The aim of this research is to determine if there are any indicators about the WAG-Qaumajuq that affect an employee’s lived experience of systemic racism while at work. Read more about the project here.
Ceremony & Making Prayers
At the direction of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers, Julia Lafreniere – WAG-Qaumajuq Head of Indigenous Initiatives, hosts Ceremony in the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Qaumajuq on a regular basis. Ceremony is held in the artwork vaults and in the exhibition spaces as part of the ongoing spiritual care for the artwork, to honour the artworks’ spirits, and the spirits’ of their makers. Dakota Elder Wanbdi Wakita told Julia that the more she has Ceremony in the spaces, the more comfortable the ancestors will feel coming into those spaces to protect and guide everyone that visits.
If an artwork is found to be acquired in an unethical manner by WAG-Qaumajuq or by the individual or institution who collected the works prior to it entering the Gallery’s collection, we would move forward with the necessary steps towards repatriation. Public access to provenance information on all artworks in the WAG-Qaumajuq collection is available upon request. Research on the provenance of artwork in the WAG-Qaumajuq collection is an ongoing exercise that is part of our mission and operations. For instance, in 2014, the Gallery was one of six galleries who participated in a pilot research project coordinated by the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization (CAMDO) to research the provenance of Holocaust-era artworks.
Artworks Renaming Initiative
As with many historical collections of artworks, there were certain pieces in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s collection that carry racist and harmful words in their titles. The Artworks Renaming Initiative addresses these problematic titles by incorporating Indigenous knowledge directly into the canon of art history by asking Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers to gift new names to the artworks. Read more about the project.
This initiative was acknowledged by the Canadian Museum Association and was honoured with the “Outstanding Achievement in the Stewardship of Collections” award.
Read an article published in Muse Magazine here.
WAG-Qaumajuq is open regular hours, see our tips for visiting here.