An Indigenous artist-run center is set to open in January
The first Indigenous artist-run center in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang, also known as Montreal, is scheduled to open in January. This might be the city’s most exciting art news in a very long time.
The Indigenous artist-run center, to be named daphne, will exhibit contemporary First Nation, Métis, and Inuit art. The project was first conceived in late 2018, initiated by four artists: Kanien’kehá:ka artists Hannah Claus and Skawennati, and Anishinaabe artists Nadia Myre and Caroline Monnet.
Claus is a transdisciplinary artist of English and Kanien’kehá:ka heritage that applies Onkwehon:we epistemology in her artistic practice. Claus currently teaches Frameworks and Interventions of Indigenous Art Practice in Concordia’s Studio Art department Skawennati is a multimedia artist that incorporates the themes of history, future, and change in her works. Along with Jason E. Lewis, who teaches Computation Arts at Concordia, she is the co-director of a research network called Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) that focuses on creating and investigating Indigenous virtual environments.
Myre is a visual artist who is interested in conversing about identity, politics, resilience and belonging through her art. She has many permanent exhibitions in various places such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada. As for Monnet, she is a multidisciplinary artist and a filmmaker. She is known for her installations and films, like her experimental film Ikwé that she presented at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009.
Lori Beavis is an art educator who will be the first director of the artist centre. Beavis is of Michi Sagiig (Mississauga) Anishinaabe and Irish-Welsh descent and is part of Hiawatha First Nation of Rice Lake, Ontario. Beavis has been curating exhibitions as an independent curator for six years.
In a recent interview, Beavis explained that the inspiration behind the artist-centre’s name comes from Anishinaabe artist Daphne Odjig, known for her pictographic style paintings. Odjig was the first First Nations woman artist to exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada, and was a feminist and an activist that helped bring an Indigenous voice into contemporary Canadian art. daphne will serve as a space to commemorate her.
Just like Odjig, Beavis and her team “intend for Centre d’art daphne to be a space for artists to find strength in community, generated through relationships with curators and audiences, and, equally significant, to participate in the art conversations that are taking place in and across borders.”
daphne will serve as a community space where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people may gather and engage in conversations with the artworks and programs that will be exhibited at the artist centre. It will invite curators, artists, and various other audiences to join in an exchange of knowledge. daphne will give the opportunity to Indigenous artists to share their knowledge and experiences.
Beavis wants to bring as many people as possible to the artist centre. The director plans to contact various Montreal organizations where Indigenous people gather. For instance, Beavis would like to get in touch with language programs in Montreal, such as Native Montreal that has a language revitalization program that offers Anishnabe, Cree, Innu, Mohawk, Inuktitut, Huron-Wendat, Atikamekw classes for adults and Inuktitut classes for children.
Beavis would be thrilled to get involved with people engaged in that program, and to bring students to daphne, as she believes hands-on experiences and handling materials enrich language learning.
Youth groups and secondary-school classes are the type of people she would love to see at the artistic centre. daphne will also serve as an educational space where the younger generations would come to learn and get involved with the works presented.
Beavis is also looking forward to facilitating a variety of activities at the artist centre such as art talks, performances and film screenings. Such activities will attract visitors to come take a look at the artist-centre and engage with the works that will be shown at the exhibition space.
“We have great plans, we are very excited about getting into the space, and having people come see our gallery and visit with us — whether or not we must wear a mask!”
Beavis and her team want to “encourage artists to become a part of [their] community. [They’re] hoping in the future to be able to create a curatorial internship so that people can learn to propose, organize, and curate exhibitions.”
As daphne already exists, the founders have created a fundraiser to furnish the exhibition space. Their fundraising goal is $20,000. So far, they have raised $9,200, demonstrating that people are supportive of the project. The team hopes to reach their goal soon and looks forward to welcoming visitors to their exhibition space.