It is an exhilarating time for the National Gallery of Canada. Societal engagement with the visual arts continues to expand, and people are now asking to see reflections of their own experiences in the museums we manage and maintain in the public trust.
Support for the arts during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated the National Gallery of Canada’s commitment to the communities that it exists to serve. The social justice movement spurred by the murder of George Floyd in the United States has inspired our teams to work towards the advancement of a more equitable society through art. Our institutional purpose – to nurture interconnection across time and place – invites us to have difficult conversations and see the world from other points of view, while also encouraging empathy and respect.
The Gallery’s first-ever Strategic Plan and culture-change project – Transform Together – was recently launched, along with a new brand defined by Ankosé, meaning “everything is connected.” An Anishinaabemowin word that emerged through conversation with Elders from the unceded territory upon which the National Gallery of Canada is located, Ankosé recognizes the limitless connections that exist beyond the frame.
Ankosé reflects our mission to extend the reach and breadth of our collection, exhibitions, and programming towards reshaping online and onsite experiences. In essence, this philosophy celebrates new narratives and ideas, bringing art to life in dynamic ways, while touching the hearts and minds of visitors. It is a powerful concept, expressing a shift from the hard geometry of a Western worldview to a permeable circle that radiates outwards to build a collection that represents all Canadians, while highlighting Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
Moving forward, we will continue to align acquisitions and exhibitions with a fresh focus on interconnection. The Gallery’s vision – in which art has the power to build bridges, deepen relationships, and advance a more equitable society – will be upheld by a commitment to justice, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.
Art museums should inspire hope, creativity and dialogue with the world, in a welcoming way. The Gallery aims to tell a more comprehensive and enriching story, through exhibitions reflecting the events that have affected underrepresented groups and influenced history. Numerous realities have been ignored over the centuries. It is our role to explore the stories behind the works we present, as a platform for amplifying the many voices that make up the visual arts community within Canada and farther afield.
Through a passionate, people-focused approach, we are reimagining the Gallery not as an institution that has all the answers, but rather, as an ever-changing space that takes risks and asks questions to surprise, delight and challenge. In our view, only by pushing boundaries, broadening the context, and changing the narrative, can we foster belonging while learning and evolving together.
— Sasha Suda, PHD, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada