Places + Spaces: Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre, Edmonton

The Canadian art landscape is ever-changing. Akimbo keeps you apprised of the standard-bearers as well as the upstarts in our new monthly feature on exhibition spaces from across the country. For our first report, we spoke with Becca Taylor, Director of the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre in Edmonton.

What is the history of your gallery?

Founded in 2015, Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective Core members originally formed the collective with the awareness that Edmonton needed to provide more support for Indigenous contemporary artists, curators, designers, educators, and culture workers, as well as the dialogue, criticality, and vision associated with this practice. In the beginning, Ociciwan partnered with different local arts organizations, such as Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, to support and promote innovative and experimental Indigenous contemporary art practices. However, it was always Ociciwan’s goal to open a center and operate in a permanent location within Edmonton to fulfill the mandate set forth at Ociciwan’s conception.

In Fall of 2020, Ocicwan opened Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre. The center’s goal is to create a platform to present Indigenous contemporary art continuously within our city and serve as a model for supporting and developing Indigenous contemporary artist-centered cultural spaces.

What is a highlight of your neighbourhood?

Ociciwan is located on Okîsikow (Angel) Way – a street that honours all women and gender diverse people who have experienced violence and those who continue to suffer, along with their families. This street is a point of activation and movement led by organizations such as Stolen Sisters and Brothers Action Movement, CEASE, and other community and family members.

What is your favourite part of running an art gallery?

Our favourite part of running an art centre is working with Indigenous artists and being in conversations surrounding art and culture with community members. Our garden space, kamâmak nihtâwikihcikan, has hosted and activated conversations surrounding visibility and cultural representation within urban settings. kamâmak nihtâwikihcikan continues to be a place of collaboration, conversation and knowledge transfer.

How do you find out about new artists?

Social media is a large conduit for access to different artists or makers across Turtle Island. We also hear of many of our artists from word of mouth. We are privileged that our community gets excited about each other’s work and share it amongst one another.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition.

Rhayne Vermette, Letter 03, 2022, video

Finding Our Way has been a dream exhibition that we have been talking about for some time. We are excited to be working with the artists in the show and highlighting their perspectives and explorations of community, land, and markers to find our way home.

Letters by Rhayne Vermette is an exciting milestone for Ociciwan, because it kicks off a year of Indigenous films in the Media Gallery – a space we have not been able to program regularly since we opened our doors in 2020.