From 17 May to 2 September 2013, the National Gallery of Canada staged one of the largest exhibitions in its history. Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art was a groundbreaking showcase of more than 150 artworks by over 80 Indigenous artists from 16 countries around the world.
Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Gallery was able to hire a Sakahàn educator to plan and carry out programs, projects and events to engage local First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth in actively exploring the artworks, ideas and issues presented in the exhibition. The Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition (OAC) also received an anonymous donation by way of the United Way to support exhibition-related programming for local Indigenous youth, their families and their communities. Working in partnership and with this valuable support, the Gallery, the United Way and the OAC made it possible, during the summer of 2013, for Aboriginal youth in the nation’s capital to experience Indigenous art in extraordinary ways.
The Gallery’s approach was to provide culturally relevant, interactive and unique experiences for First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth aged 8 to 18. Programs included:
• Workshops and talks
• Youth Ambassador program
• Junior Curator program
• Apprenticeship program
These programs enabled youth to learn more about the cultural, social and political practices and issues of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world. Close looking, discussion and traditional and contemporary teachings fostered connections between the youth and the artworks, and a new sense of comfort and belonging in the museum environment. Expressions of pride and curiosity were common amongst the youth, revealing a growing awareness – through the interpretation of art – of Indigenous nations and cultural connections.
More than 1,522 youth participated in the Sakahàn youth programming with their family and community members.
In addition to the youth participants, events held in direct relationship to the Sakahàn youth programming drew in approximately 500 visitors and guests.