Beaverbrook Art Gallery presents new program to showcase Indigenous talents

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is seen in this file photo. (Submitted: Rob Blanchard)

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s new program, Shared Spaces, was introduced to display Indigenous talents and provide an educational experience for the public.

The gallery completed their $50,000 fundraiser to earn the J.T. Clark Family Foundation challenge grant on Sept. 30 which will fund Shared Spaces.  

Tom Smart, the director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, is excited for the program and what will come from it.

“It’s a program where we work with our First Nations partners and develop programming, exhibitions, educational programs, public programs, mentorships, elders and resident artists, in a whole array of different offerings,” said Smart.

To help the gallery make this possible, the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation pledged $25,000. The donation helped the gallery meet their fundraising goal of $50,000.

Smart said they are already planning ways to put the pledge to good use, including hiring an Indigenous curator to help organize exhibitions featuring emerging artists, expanding their artist-in-residence and elder-in-residence program over the next three years and creating an animated series for school curriculums. 

The program already started with the first event, Shared Stories, taking place every Thursday from Sept. 23 until Oct. 28 at the Art Education Centre. 

Each session will feature a presentation by an Indigenous artist and works from both the gallery collection and the personal collections of the artists. The audience will have the opportunity to take part in discussions and gain a deeper understanding of the traditions and values of local Indigenous cultures.

The event already featured artists such as Natasha Martin-Mitchell, who spoke about regalia and Robin Paul who spoke about beading. Future sessions will feature topics like mask making and drum making.

Smart said he hopes Shared Spaces will be another part of Fredericton’s efforts towards reconciliation.

“This set of programs and this initiative is part of how the Beaverbrook Art Gallery very specifically addresses some of those recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report,” said Smart. “This is how we individually and institutionally do a small part toward building a better country through truth and reconciliation.” 

Though the Beaverbrook Art Gallery worked with the Indigenous communities of Fredericton before, Smart hopes that the new program will open more doors for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to participate. 

“We’ve been working together with [Indigenous communities] for years and years, and this is just one more example of how we can deepen that relationship and do more programming,” said Smart.