OAG Statement for Systemic Change

Ottawa Art Gallery Statement for Systemic Change

The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) acknowledges the systemic violence and racism in our city and region targeted at Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). Artists and cultural workers are important members of these communities, and we will use the power and privilege of our status as a cultural institution to amplify their voices, and to be a resource and a support. We have much work to do. It starts with words, and a commitment that they will lead to meaningful, continuous action and fundamental change.

It is only through understanding and knowing what we have, and have not, done that we can create action items for moving forward. The OAG respects the work of individuals connected to the Black Lives Matters movement who are engaging in the important practice, led by so many artists and activists of the past, to use metrics and statistics to bring to light the inequities within our cultural institutions.

Recent events have furthered our resolve to extend audits across all gallery operational structures and programming activities; to act by reaching out, consulting, listening, rectifying gaps, and sharing platforms with voices from all BIPOC artists, cultural workers and communities, including those from the Black community.

At a recent meeting, the Ottawa Art Gallery Board of Directors passed the following resolution:

On behalf of the Ottawa Art Gallery, we condemn racism and all acts of violence and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity and other forms of discriminatory intolerance. We will continue to work with, and listen to, our communities to help dismantle systems of oppression and injustice through our role as a cultural leader and community hub.

These words will become actions in the following ways:

  1. Strategic Priority Planning: In 2020, OAG is in a year-long strategic priority revisioning process led by the Board of Directors and the Director and CEO. A pillar of this process is a series of community focus groups, in which OAG is reaching out and listening to marginalized voices, including sessions with the Black community. The aim of these sessions is to achieve action items and measurable results across gallery activities and operations for the policies that will guide us for the next three years. This process represents the long-term thinking of the OAG, but we are acting now on items listed below.
  2. Exhibition and Acquisition Priorities: OAG’s Acquisitions and Exhibitions Policies both contain our mandate to reflect the diversity of artistic production in our region in our Permanent Collection and exhibition program. The OAG will provide transparency as to our selection processes, and accountability to this mandate through: 1) increased community consultation in exhibition selection and development; and 2) the refinement of our acquisition and exhibition priorities, which help staff to forefront work by artists from marginalized communities, including Black communities, for collection and display.
  3. Learning and Engagement Opportunities: From artists’ talks, to panel discussions, and community inreach and outreach, OAG will share space on our considerable platforms for BIPOC voices, including those from the Black community, through both our virtual and physical arenas, to help listen to the voices of change and advance important conversations and issues.
  4. Commercial Practices: Galerie Annexe and the OAG Shop are the OAG’s commercial spaces dedicated to highlighting Canadian artists, with the proceeds supporting OAG operations. We will increase the representation of BIPOC artists by ensuring that our annual submission call is accessible to a wider audience and our juries are a diverse representation of our community and by working annually with a Guest Curator from BIPOC communities to organise a Galerie Annexe exhibition. This annual contract position will allow Galerie Annexe to further expand its engagement with communities of artists from the region, share authorship of selection and expertise within its rotation of commercial exhibitions, and decrease margins that effect BIPOC communities.
  5. Staff: OAG will continue to seek to engage, and include, a diverse staff that guides decisions and procedures that are created internally to reflect wider perspectives; and provide staff with regular anti-oppression training to ensure that our space is safe and welcoming at all levels of access.