The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) announced today the creation of a Department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization, and the appointments of its first Vice President, Steven Loft, effective February 7, 2022, and first Director, Michelle LaVallee, effective March 21, 2022. The creation of this department and establishment of two senior positions mark a new key milestone in the implementation of the National Gallery of Canada’s first-ever Strategic Plan Transform Together launched last spring.
The Gallery is committed to re-examining and reimagining its collections, programming, policies and approach to public engagement to truly reflect the rich diversity of Canadian society, and the First Peoples of this land. Through these new appointments, the Gallery is committed to supporting the self-determination of Indigenous peoples, and to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists, curators, scholars’, Elders, knowledge keepers and creative and cultural producers.
“Steven and Michelle will guide the Gallery’s work to deepen its relationship with Indigenous communities and Nations, locally, nationally, and internationally, and lead the work of decolonization and reconciliation through all the Gallery does. This will build on the work of the Indigenous gallery staff who have brought to life historic exhibitions such as the Alex Janvier retrospective and Àbadakone while building a rich collection of contemporary international Indigenous art,” said Dr. Sasha Suda, Director and CEO of the NGC.
Loft, of Mohawk-Jewish heritage, most recently held the position of Director, Strategic Initiatives for Indigenous Arts and Culture at the Canada Council for the Arts, will bring his voice to the Gallery’s Executive team, as a leader and member of the Senior Management Committee. In his new capacity, he will collaborate closely with the Gallery’s Vice-President, Strategic Transformation and Inclusion, Angela Cassie, who leads the implementation of the National Gallery of Canada’s commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility as well as other senior management and the gallery’s education and curatorial departments.
“I’m excited to be joining the Gallery team at such a transformational time,” said Loft. “For Indigenous peoples and others who have not seen themselves in the narratives of this land, it’s time for their stories to be forefront in our shared journey of decolonization and society building. First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives, worldviews and relationship to this land we now know as Canada are fundamental in understanding ourselves, our history and our possible futures. Art shows us the promise of sharing and understanding … it reveals us, to ourselves and to each other, if we let it.”
Michelle LaVallee, who currently holds the position of Director of the Indigenous Art Centre at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Gatineau, QC), will work in close collaboration with Steven Loft and senior management, as well as with the curatorial department, including the Indigenous art curatorial team.
“My career is dedicated to championing Indigenous art and artists within institutions,” said LaVallee. “I have lead acquisitions with living artists and makers built on relations grounded in community. I believe the Gallery is a site for storytelling and knowledge sharing with and in service of Indigenous Peoples. I am invested in change, and work to challenge historical relationships with art and history museums towards respect, trust, reciprocity and accountability towards a new way of engaging with people, space, and the land. It is an exciting opportunity to work alongside my respected colleagues to build networks of awakened solidarity, fueling the movement for resurgence, decolonization, and reclamation of Indigenous homelands through our contribution to the transformation and future forward direction at the National Gallery of Canada!”
About Steven Loft
Steven Loft is Kanien'kehá: ka (also known as Mohawk), of the Six Nations of the Grand River, also with Jewish heritage. He most recently held the position of Director of Strategic Initiatives for Indigenous Arts and Culture and formerly Director of the Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples program with the Canada Council for the Arts. A curator, scholar, writer and media artist, in 2010 he was named Trudeau National Visiting Fellow at Ryerson University in Toronto. Loft has also held positions as Curator-in-Residence, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada; Director/Curator of the Urban Shaman Gallery (Winnipeg); Aboriginal Curator at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and Producer and Artistic Director of the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers’ Association (Hamilton). He has curated group and solo exhibitions across Canada and internationally; written extensively for magazines, catalogues and arts publications and lectured widely in Canada and internationally. Loft co-edited the books Transference, Technology, Tradition: Aboriginal Media and New Media Art (Banff Centre Press, 2005) and Coded Territories: Indigenous Pathways in New Media (University of Calgary Press, 2014).
About Michelle LaVallee
Michelle LaVallee is Anishinaabe (Ojibway) and a member of the Neyashiingamiing Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation in Cape Croker, Ontario, and has Canadian Settler heritage of English/Scottish/French descent from her mother. She currently holds the position of Director of the Indigenous Art Centre at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Gatineau, QC), where she was responsible for the development, care, and management of Canada’s oldest and only federal heritage collection devoted to Indigenous art. She worked as part of the Corporate Secretariat management team and led the Art Centre team towards better stabilization with regards to human resources, budget, acquisitions, and collection maintenance. Previously, she was Curator at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan (2007–2017), and has curated exhibitions for galleries including A Space Gallery (Toronto) and Gallery 101 (Ottawa). Her curatorial work has explored the colonial relations that have shaped historical and contemporary culture through exhibitions including: Moving Forward, Never Forgetting (2015); 13 Coyotes: Edward Poitras (2012); Blow Your House In: Vernon Ah Kee (2009); and Miss Chief: Shadow Catcher—Kent Monkman (2008). LaVallee organized the historical and nationally touring exhibition 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (2013–2016) and award-winning book contextualizing their influential role in contemporary Canadian art history. She has been a chosen participant for a number of Canadian Indigenous Curators Delegations sent to Australia, New Zealand and Venice, and her curatorial work has been recognized by three Saskatchewan Book Awards, and the City of Regina Mayor’s Arts and Business Awards.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to a rich contemporary Indigenous international art collection, as well as important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian and European Art from the 14th to 21st centuries. Founded in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for more than a century. Through the visual arts, the Gallery nurtures interconnection across time and place, and creates dynamic experiences that open hearts and minds and allow for new ways of seeing ourselves, each other, and our diverse histories. To find out more about the Gallery’s programming and activities visit gallery.ca and follow on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. #Ankose #EverythingIsConnected #AmplifyVoices.
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