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Remove OAC restrictions on Indigenous and culturally diverse curatorial projects.

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Under the Ontario Arts Council’s Culturally Diverse Curatorial Projects and Aboriginal Curatorial Projects programs, eligible activities are restricted to exhibitions (and related publications). Other types of intellectual and creative curatorial presentations (discourse and activities generated by contemporary art) are not recognized. The OAC’s definition of curatorial projects is outdated. Further, it precludes meaningful contributions by preventing Indigenous and culturally diverse curators from self-defining their practices.

Ultimately, this assimilationist approach tokenizes the Indigenous or culturally diverse curator by placing them in organizations while preventing them from having influence and impact on their own professional terms.

Finally, curators applying to the “Visual Arts Project Grants” program are not restricted to exhibitions as the only eligible activity. The OAC designates a reduced definition of curatorial practice only for the Indigenous and culturally diverse curatorial projects programs.

Sign this petition to urge the Ontario Arts Council to reflect current curatorial practices in their programs for Indigenous and culturally diverse curators.

BACKGROUND: At this time, it is widely acknowledged in both institutional and independent curatorial practice that discourses and activities generated by contemporary art and presented by curators are curatorial projects. This is the case locally and internationally, and present in curatorial training curricula. 

Moreover, by restricting the definition of eligible projects to exhibitions alone, the OAC ignores the diverse range of contexts that curatorial practices take place in and develop from. For instance, in geographical regions where there are not many galleries and museums, or where cultural institutions may have been devastated by volatile political situations, there is no less curatorial ability. Consider curators in Beirut, Cairo, Alexandria and Istanbul, such as Christine Tohme, Sarah Rifky, Zeynep Oz, or Mirene Arsanios whose practices are characterized by responsiveness to the cultural needs of the city rather than exhibition making. 

Curators centred in the West have acknowledged this comprehensive definition of curatorial practice as well. Consider European curators Maria Lind and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Here locally, the accomplished curator Barbara Fischer has fostered, through mentorship, many projects that are not exhibitions but remain curation. Those include Maiko Tanaka's Extra Curricular: Between Art and Pedagogy an expansive two part project that included conference, workshops, round tables and a reading room within an artwork and Yan Wu's Radicalizing the Campus: A three-day social-spatial workshop led by Cohabitation Strategies. These projects stand as examples of curatorial practice occurring in an academic environment where curating is taught. 

Other local examples include cheyanne turions’ No Reading After the Internet, Xenia Benevolski and Christine Atkinson's Open Sesame, Gallery TPW's R&D project, an extended period of critical investigation curated by established curator Kim Simon, which has continued to inform the gallery's approach. Recently, the Art Gallery of York University wrapped up its three-part CIA project (Centre for Incidental Activisms) curated by Michael Maranda, Suzanne Carte and Emelie Chhangur. Within the CIA project the activities involved were not adjunct but inextricably a part of the overall curatorial project with an aim described as the invention of "a new public engaged with artistic process as method and not as means to a visible end." This is curation that extends beyond a period of display in a gallery and the curators assert, "this is not exhibition making even if it does happen in an art gallery."

This definition of curation remains a practice of placing one thing in relation to another; however, it isn't restricted to display and evolves alongside artist's practices. Just as painting is one type of artwork, but does not solely define artworks, an exhibition is one type of curatorial project among many. 


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