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.

Respectfully,

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

Current Actions

  • Established Equity Task Force (2020).
  • Established a paid Elder-in-Residence position to act as a resource to all staff (2020).
  • Undertaking a thorough review of our Respectful Workplaces Policy to ensure it cultivates an anti-racist and anti-oppressive environment.
  • Conducting a demographic audit of the permanent collections to understand the current levels of representation by racial background, culture, nationality, and gender identity/expression.
  • Conducting a demographic audit of staff and board of directors.
  • Working with Future Ancestors Services on anti-racist and ancestral accountability training for all staff and board members and on the development of material for onboarding new staff, with the goal of continuing this work in an ongoing manner.
  • Working with Affective Consulting to review recruitment strategies for diversifying candidate pools.
  • Expand our current complimentary community membership program and make its membership process more open.
  • Update all forms and demographics to replace binary gender selections with more representative categories.
  • Undertaking a review of the collection to identify objects with questionable provenance that are candidates for repatriation.
  • Working toward an accessibility position statement for the Gallery, facilitated by artist Carmen Papalia—building off a four-year-long working relationship with the artist spanning internal meetings, training, performance, and exhibition planning.

future actions

Short-term (within one year):
  • Revise and create policies to support a zero-tolerance stance on racially charged, ableist, transphobic, or other discriminatory statements or incidents.
  • Ongoing: build stronger relationships with Black, POC, queer, and disability communities, artists, and future artists/cultural workers, through community partnerships and in-reach.
  • Update all gendered washroom signs to better welcome all staff and visitors.
  • The Board of Directors aims to establish a parallel initiative to address equity from a governance perspective.
  • Add accessibility to the exhibition planning matrix.
  • Experiment with visual description, transcripts, and other tools for key online and in-person program, by facilitating artist-led experiences, building our own capacity, and finding new models for doing this work.
  • Undertake a disability audit and create an action plan for addressing the audit recommendations.
  • Continue work with the Equity Task Force, seeking input from various communities and stakeholders to continue to update this list.
  • Update the exit interview process to encourage transparent feedback around equity-related issues.

 

Mid-term (in one to two years):
  • Create an updated and transparent history of the MacKenzie Art Gallery that not only celebrates successes, but also discusses problems and failures
  • Make our demographic audit information publicly available.
  • Adjust future collection priorities in response to the demographic audit.
  • Formalize artist payment policy, ensuring equitable payment distribution to women; non-binary; and Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) artists.
  • Create strategies for more diverse ongoing consultative relationships, beyond the Indigenous Advisory Circle.

 

 

Long-term (in two to five years):
  • Review all internal policies to ensure compatability with equity objectives.
  • Make significant progress on the repatriation of all objects in the collection that were obtained unethically or illegally.
  • Realize our artistic goals around and commitments to cultural health, radical diversity, and how we write the art histories of Saskatchewan.
  • Continue to embrace and expand our educational role on diversity in gender expression and identity in sexuality.
  • Staff and leadership of the institution to reflect and represent the various communities we serve, with a goal to exceed the proportions in census demographics to ensure meaningful engagement with a broad range of voices and perspectives.
  • Institutionalize our commitment to equity for the continual development of long-term goals.

Past Actions

Note: The majority of our documented past actions represent evolving efforts to create meaningful relationships with Indigenous artists and communities; more needs to be done to address equity outside of settler–Indigenous relationships. Because addressing this equity was not prioritized in the past, the efforts that have been made outside of settler–Indigenous relationships are not as well documented. We aim to research past efforts in order to better honour the work that has been done in the past.

  • The Gallery has a long history of Indigenous exhibitions and engagement with Indigenous curators (more 90 exhibitions in the past 40 years, not all necessarily positive representations).
  • Prominent Métis artist Bob Boyer was hired as the first permanent staff member in the Community Program team—an initiative designed to make visual art more accessible to rural and northern communities across Saskatchewan (1975).
  • The MacKenzie was the first public art gallery in Canada to present traditional First Nations objects as “fine art,” in the exhibition 100 Years of Saskatchewan Indian Art 1830–1930, curated by Bob Boyer (1975).
  • The MacKenzie showed New Work by a New Generation. This show is often acknowledged as the first major exhibition in Canada of Indigenous art across Turtle Island; however, this distinction discounts exhibitions by Indigenous artists who were not trained in Western universities (1982).
  • The MacKenzie was the first non-Indigenous public art gallery to appoint an Indigenous Chief Curator, Lee-Ann Martin (1998).
  • Indigenous curators Pat Deadman and Michelle Lavallee undertook many important exhibitions and incorporated new paradigms into the Gallery’s working models, often while being confronted with deeply embedded barriers to progress (2002 to 2017).
  • Indigenous Advisory Circle established (2014).
  • Created Story Keeper interpretive methodology for the exhibition Moving Forward, Never Forgetting, under the guidance of participating curators. This education methodology has been identified as an initiative we want to return to, but to date it has not yet been replicated (2015).
  • Indigenous Advisory Circle restructure begins (2017).
  • Hired Indigenous filmmaker and community activist Janine Windolph as Curator of Community Engagement (2017).
  • Janine Windolph helps establish Reconciliation Regina as part of her role at the MacKenzie(2017).
  • Created a strategic plan advocating for Indigenous rights: “Visualize and help advance Indigenous rights and promote applicable calls to action through continued organizational development and community engagement” (2018).
  • Hired Indigenous Director of Programs, John G. Hampton (2018).
  • Established a radical diversity matrix established for programs and exhibitions, with the aim of providing space and resources to Black and POC artists comparable to those offered to Indigenous and settler artists (2018).
  • Accepted promised gift of the Kampelmacher Memorial Collection of Indigenous Art, to increase representation of Indigenous work in the MacKenzie collection to at least 20 per cent (2018).
  • Obtained MITACs fellowships and funding focused on decolonizing museums, in partnership with the University of Regina and appointment of Swampy Cree/Scottish curator Felicia Gay as Curatorial Fellow (2019).
  • Indigenous Advisory Circle relaunched with new structure (2019).
  • Principals for the utilization of Indigenous languages outlined through consultation with the Indigenous Advisory Circle (2019).
  • Incorporated Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Calls to Action and UNDRIP into business plans (2020).
  • Conducted many important initiatives through past and present partnerships with organizations including SaskAbilities, the Regina Immigrant Women Centre, the Multiculturalism Council of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.