UPDATES




JOINT LETTER BY UNION GALLERY + MODERN FUEL ARTIST-RUN CENTRE + AGNES ETHERINGTON ART CENTRE

Posted: June 15, 2021

“Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.” —Truth and Reconciliation Commission Summary of Calls to Action.

Today we are writing to urge you to reconsider statues and monuments. By reconsidering the role statues and monuments play in upholding—and in many cases constituting—“Canadian values,” we can collectively come to reckon with a problem that haunts Kingston and keeps this place trapped in the trauma of the past.

Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and Union Gallery ask for a city sanctioned and official removal of the Sir John A. MacDonald Statue at City Park in Katarokwi-Kingston, Ontario.

Statues, such as this one, are designed as vehicles to elevate history and to draw attention to the role of the individual. They act to define what a “great hero” is in perpetuity, and they operate to ensure only singular histories are remembered. As the first Prime Minister of Canada and the architect of the Indian Act, John A MacDonald is a monument to oppression, colonial violence, and genocide. We can no longer glorify him with this statue. We can no longer pretend that there is a singular history that constitutes the Canadian Nation State. We can no longer assume that history is made by individuals. That is a monumental western European concept, which also needs reconsideration.

We have given consideration to the conservative solutions proposed to appease the status quo. We do not believe that a plaque with further information about the man is a suitable solution. We do not believe that a second statue, placed next to the existing one is a suitable solution. We need to reconsider statues and monuments more holistically if we are truly going to foster forms of cultural multiplicity and expression. Furthermore, when public works are placed together they are meant to be seen in conversation with each other. This relationality is not intended to produce a grey zone where one statue somehow neutralizes the other. The solution is to remove the existing monument.

To pretend colonialism is Canada’s past is to ignore the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action. The discovery of the bodies of 215 children at the Kamloops residential school serves as the most recent reminder of the atrocities committed by the Canadian Nation State as it was constituted by the policies and political work of John A MacDonald and others. Of the thousands of Indigenous children taken hostage, many survived, and many more thrive. Let this be a catalyst for settler allies, our institutions, and our governments to enact the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and be future oriented in our commitments.

Signed,
Anne-Sophie Grenier, Executive Director Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre
Emelie Chhangur, Director and Curator Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Carina Magazzeni, Director Union Gallery






OUR COMMITMENT TO ANTI-RACISM + MEANINGFUL, INTENTIONAL CHANGE

Posted: November 1, 2020

The summer of 2020 brought to the forefront many issues of structural and systemic racism within and across Canadian cultural institutions. Too often the pattern in society has been that when things cannot be easily resolved, the solution is ignored and we "move on" with empty promises of doing better. As Union Gallery's Board of Directors and staff met over the summer to review our practices, internal policies and procedures, it was brought to light that our own good intentions to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation, ability, creed etc. have not been enough. Our gallery's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy is insufficient and does not reflect our values as an organization. Policy is the backbone to the standards we hold ourselves to, and without such ethics being clearly stated and upheld, we have directly failed our community members whom we aim to support. We sincerely apologize to the BIPOC, 2SLGBTQIA+, and other marginalized members of our communities who have perhaps not considered the gallery as a space for them and their unique creative expression. We hope that our commitments to do better and follow through will serve to create the inclusive and participatory space we strive to be.

The board and staff at Union Gallery believe that an art gallery like ours has an important role to play in recognizing and challenging historic and ongoing oppression, and it is important to us that the gallery not only continue to present exhibitions and programs that support BIPOC artists, students, members and visitors, but invests in the work of becoming an inclusive, anti-racist organization. We are currently undergoing an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion audit, establishing processes for structural change, and developing an anti-racism action plan to further (un)learn, reflect and serve communities better. We will be holding ourselves accountable through comprehensive internal and external reviews of our policies, procedures and operations. This work is ongoing, and we appreciate your patience as we undertake important change.

We encourage our membership and communities to hold us to these principles and welcome feedback on how to make our space more welcoming and inclusive for you. Please reach out directly to us at ug.governance@gmail.com. We affirm that issues of equity, diversity and inclusivity must be collaborative and focused on ongoing partnership and community building.

We are taking to heart the call from "A Letter from the Black Curators Forum to Contemporary Art Institutions and Organizations across This Land Called Canada" (Canadian Art, Fall 2020 Issue: "Chroma"), among other important calls for institutional change to "...engage with the momentum of the current moment to take long-overdue steps towards authentic reform and accountability."

We are committed to taking meaningful, intentional actions to remove barriers to inclusion:

  • We will continue to donate and fundraise for anti-racist causes and organizations on a consistent basis.
  • We will participate in anti-racism training at all levels of the organization.
  • We will audit and revise internal policies, most especially our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy, recognizing our responsibility to do more and do better.
  • We will evaluate programs through a lens of inclusivity and develop artistic programming with a diversity of voices and perspectives.
  • We will support diversity within our organization by proactively creating and sustaining fairly compensated employment, advisory bodies and collaboration for BIPOC artists, students, writers, academics and youth.
  • We will regularly self-assess our organizational space, governance structures, programs and working environments to support the work, agency and professional/creative growth of BIPOC staff, board, volunteers, artists and collaborators.
  • We will ensure the Gallery's next Strategic Plan reflects an anti-racist framework.
  • We will monitor and report on our progress.

We engage in this process with sincere dedication.






BLACK LIVES MATTER

Posted: June 2, 2020

We are participating in a blackout on our social media for everything other than BLACK LIVES MATTER content, info and artwork—to listen to and uplift Black voices.

As protests continue, the Union Gallery stands in solidarity with BIPOC leaders and community activists locally and internationally. We demand justice in the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others whose lives have been cut short because of anti-Black racism, police brutality and a pervasive culture of white supremacy. There is no single way to fight systemic racism and oppression, but we start by listening to and supporting the activists, artists, writers and scholars who work for justice.

We are taking the time to listen and learn, share and pledge funds. The Union Gallery and individual staff have donated to Black Lives Matter, Minnesota Freedom Fund and Black Lives Matter Toronto. We recognize that as an organization we can and must do better to support Black artists in our community and beyond. We are looking inwards to reflect on our own operational practices and programming in order to ensure we are supporting and remaining accountable towards Black students, artists and cultural producers, not only at this moment, but once momentum slows. Art galleries are not neutral spaces. As an educational organization, the Union Gallery has a responsibility to help educate our publics on social justice and inspire people to take action.

We each have a responsibility to seek out resources and remain informed, active and vigilant in dismantling systems of oppression. It is our collective duty to put in the work to find the words to address this injustice, to express our support of the Black Lives matter movement, and to try our best to continue to learn, grow and improve.

Thank you for reading. Keep putting in the work. We promise we will too.