The Surrey Art Gallery has been nominated for a 2020 BCMA Outstanding Achievement Award, Award for Excellence in Community Engagement for their commitment to Indigenous Contemporary Art Education & Engagement.
Surrey is an increasingly important urban centre with a diverse, multi-ethnic population of 500,000, with the province’s largest school district, and the largest urban Aboriginal population in the province. Located on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) nations, the Gallery serves to connect art, artists, and audiences. The education and engagement programs at the Gallery enable material and ephemeral opportunities for critical, creative explorations of issues and ideas that affect our lives through contemporary art. By listening, the Gallery is able to respond to the needs of artists and audiences and provide relevant, meaningful, and experimental experiences, connecting people in conversations and collaborations.
The Gallery has a long history of working with Indigenous artists through exhibitions, residencies, public programs, partnership projects, collaborations, committees, and consultations. Given the exponential growth in the City, the Gallery is continuously seeking ways undertake sustainable initiatives to respond to and support the needs of young people. The Gallery’s Indigenous Contemporary Art Education and Engagement initiatives have included:
Sharing Perspectives Indigenous Contemporary Art Workshop (K-12): Since 1999, the Gallery has hired Indigenous artist-educators to go into Surrey Schools and share the Gallery’s Permanent and Public Art collections, and support teaching and learning through a hands-on art activity growing out their practice.
Indigenous Contemporary Art Intensive pilot: In part to support efforts in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Summary Report’s Calls to Action, the Gallery hired five youth this summer to join the staff team for an artist residency in their TechLab. The young artists grew their practices as artists and cultural workers in an art museum, as well as informed Gallery initiatives from within the institution.
Bearing Witness participatory installation: Alluvial forests, like Bear Creek Park in which the Gallery is situated, are fed by the nutrients of its water source and by salmon. Honouring these few remaining forests, artists Roxanne Charles and Debbie Westergaard Tuepah invited the public into Bearing Witness, a touchable fibre forest, to experience and contribute to its vitality.
Surrey Art Gallery’s continual commitment to furthering Indigenous contemporary arts education and engagement is long-term, rooted in meaningful critical thinking, and serves community and public. The long-term relationships they have built with communities, teachers, artists, and Gallery visitors who return time again is a testament to the ongoing impact and success of their commitments. Congratulations on your nomination!