Recent progress in the public consciousness around racial justice has given us cause to reflect on the urgency with which we are addressing white supremacy, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, eurocentrism, and other systems of privilege and inequity within our communities and our institution. In addition to working to assist calls for systemic change beyond the scope of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, we felt it necessary to create our own path for change that will outline how we plan to address the systemic barriers to equality that exist within the MacKenzie, in order to promote a positive cultural environment. To this end, in July of 2020, the Gallery struck an emergency Equity Task Force, helmed by the outgoing CEO and the incoming CEO.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, we were struck by the remarkable responses developed to combat this pandemic. Governments, institutions, and individuals largely pivoted—reallocating resources, questioning assumptions, changing daily routines and practices—in some instances at great personal risk, for the greater good of community health and collective well-being. We have seen that we can change—and change quickly.
Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression continue to harm and kill uncounted millions. We are making a commitment to address these issues with the same urgency with which we are addressing the ongoing pandemic.
The Gallery’s strategic plan states that we will “visualize and help advance Indigenous rights.” Indigenous communities are calling for rapid, systemic change to end the violence (economic, psychological, and physical) perpetrated against Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities. We recognize that historical efforts toward equity at the MacKenzie have been directed primarily toward inclusion of Indigenous peoples, and we wish to address an inadequate engagement with Black and POC (people of colour) communities. Executing our strategic plan, and decolonizing our institution, cannot happen without addressing accessibility, gender identity/expression, racial justice, and other inequities within our communities. Because these inequities cannot be addressed purely through our programming or performative gestures, the Equity Task Force has been charged with reviewing all corners of our institution, including—but not limited to—staffing, collections, visitor experience, policy, and partnerships.
Our communities are demanding reform across our sector. We intend to respond to this call with boldness, transparency, and accountability. In order to proceed, we have identified actions—past, present, and future—that the MacKenzie has implemented, is currently implementing, or intends to implement to fight systemic oppression. We will be working with community partners to help identify blind spots and provide guidance in areas where we do not have expertise.
We gratefully acknowledge the work of the many individuals and groups who have graciously offered guidance to museums on paths toward positive change. The work we have been doing owes a particular debt to the recommendations outlined in A Culture of Exploitation: “Reconciliation” and the Institutions of Canadian Art, by Lindsay Nixon; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); the Task Force Report on Museums and First Peoples; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action; an open letter to New York City’s cultural institutions, by #ForTheCulture; and an open letter to artist-run centres in Quebec, titled Moving Beyond Statements of Solidarity.
This list will be updated as we make progress and new commitments toward these goals.
The MacKenzie Art Gallery Equity Task Force
John G. Hampton, Executive Director and CEO
Lillian O’Brien Davis, Assistant Curator
MacKenzie Hamon, Communications Coordinator
Caitlin Mullan, Head of Strategic Initiatives
Nicolle Nugent, Curator of Education
Brittany Yang, Director of Development
Regina, 11 January 2021