Reconciling Institutional Practice: A Three Day Think Tank


Reconciling Institutional Practice: A Three Day Think Tank

March 05 – 07, 2020
Joseph Green Theatre
Centre for Film and Theatre, York University
Toronto ON

Join the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, as we present a three day Think Tank — Reconciling Institutional Practice. This Think Tank will bring together Indigenous and some non-Indigenous arts professionals and artists from across Canada to participate in a dialogue that addresses issues of colonialism and reconciliation in art galleries and museums today. This event is held at York University with support from the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH).

Colonization is still implicated in the history and structures of all major art institutions in Canada as most contemporary art institutions began with the private collections of wealthy European settlers whose fortunes were based largely on the seizure of Indigenous resources, land, and people. Galleries and art museums with their collections, mandates, and exhibitions are still ingrained with these histories. This Think Tank will be a space and framework for the conversation on how art galleries, museums, and art institutions in Ontario can address reconciling their collections, exhibitions, and educational programming within this historical context. Institutions will explore their evolving responsibility to change the narrative around the housing, treatment, and presentation of Indigenous artworks in the gallery through guided, peer-to-peer discussions. These discussions will begin the process of nurturing a culture of care, with an emphasis on strengthening one-on-one relationships with Indigenous artists and their communities.


DAY 1: Reconciling Your Institution’s Acquisitions and Collections

Galleries and museums are mandated to preserve and maintain artworks in their collections. Institutions are responsible for the storage and preservation of not only physical objects but the history connected. The standards for the collection management, conservation and record keeping have been structures out of colonial policies and institutions. Can this standard be applicable to non-colonial artworks, and should they be? This workshop will address these issues with sessions discussing the ethics of acquiring Indigenous art, the storage of Indigenous art, the sacredness and cultural significance of objects, and the importance of repatriating work in their collection.

Topics and themes that will be discussed include:

  • The Early Colonization of Art, and the Loss of Tradition
  • Discussing the Ethics of Acquiring and Storing Indigenous Art
  • Changing the Care and Preservation Model for Indigenous Works in Your Collection
  • Assessing your Collection and the Repatriation Process
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) Tour and Discussion

DAY 2: Presentation Matters: The Importance of Exhibition and Display in the Reconciliation Process

Exhibitions are critical in how the public views and interprets artworks, artists, and historical information. They are where the art meets the audience. Institutions develop exhibitions with good intentions; but at times, they can be unintentionally hurtful or problematic. As colonially founded institutions, can contemporary galleries truly accurately display and tell the story of Indigenous artists and their work? This workshop, the second of a three-part series, will examine the current display and exhibition practices for Indigenous works.

Topics and themes that will be discussed include:

  • Exhibiting Contemporary Indigenous Art
  • Gallery Case Studies
  • Loans and Travelling Exhibitions
  • Artist Perspectives
  • Tour and Reception at the AGYU

DAY 3: Collections Pedagogy: From Practice to Protocol

This workshop acknowledges the entangled relationships of collecting and display practices to pedagogy. While the act of collecting and exhibiting as practices can be considered pedagogical in and of themselves, this workshop looks at the role of education, animation, and the didactic framing of Indigenous art works. How can we rethink our current animation strategies that teach from authoritative points of view? How can our education programming enforce shared pedagogical learning through Indigenous works without it having to fall back on settlers learning about Indigenous history. How do we get past the settler-colonial lense of education and what role can the contemporary art gallery play in this trajectory?

  • Animating Indigenous Collections
  • Land Acknowledgements, Language, and Names
  • Co-curation and Collaboration


Speakers over the three days include: Susan Blight, Quill Violet Christie-Peters, Aylan Couchie, Patricia Deadman, Karen Duffek, Sameer Farooq, Michelle LaVallee, Lee Maracle, Lisa Myers, Alexandra Nahwegahbow, Archer Pechawis, Jocelyn Piirainen, Tania Willard, and more to be announced.


Email completed registration forms to Jessica Lukas, Secretariat Assistant,, with subject line – ATTN: Reconciling Institutional Practice



Full Three Days:
OAAG and OMA Members: $480
General/Non-Members: $700
Students (with valid student ID): $100

Single Day:
OAAG and OMA Members: $175
General/Non-Members: $275
Students (with valid student ID): $45

Registration includes access to the full day(s) of presentations and discussions, lunch and refreshments, supplementary materials, and any additional activities/tours.


The Think Tank will take place at the Joseph Green Studio Theatre at York University (Centre for Film and Theatre), with some activities occurring at the nearby AGYU (East Accolade Building). Both venues are accessible spaces. Please visit the map of York University for more details and locations.

Both venues are located nearby to the accessible “York University” TTC stop on Line 1.
Paid parking is available on campus in several nearby parking lots and garages including accessible parking.

Accommodations are available on campus for an affordable rate at the Schulich Executive Learning Centre Hotel.


For more information regarding this workshop, please contact Parker O’Connor, Communications Assistant, at or 416-598-0714.


This program is supported by the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage (MICH). OAAG also gratefully acknowledges the funding contribution from the Museums Assistance Program with the Department of Canadian Heritage.