Open Space forms a new interim Board of Directors; former Board resigns

March 13, 2018 - The new interim Board of Directors at Open Space has issued a statement which can be found below.

In order to keep a clear record of what has been taking place at Open Space, in this update, Rungh will first provide a link to the Friday, March 9, statement issued by Executive Director, Kegan McFadden, titled "In response to the concerns raised in the Letter of Resignation from France Trépanier". The full text is provided below.

On March 10, a public forum was held at Open Space, the full text of the statement from the interim Board of Directors, issued on March 13, is provided below.

Rungh hopes to provide a report from the public forum of March 10, 2018, in the near future.

In response to the concerns raised in the Letter of Resignation from France Trépanier

Open Space, 510 Fort Street, 2nd floor

Friday, March 9, 2018 (All day)

The past few weeks have been a period of listening for me. Until now I have chosen not to make a broader public statement in order to leave room for the community to voice their concerns with Open Space. As I continue to listen, I also realize that to remain silent out of respect for our community may be taken as complicity in an erasure of Indigenous agency, which is in no way my intention.

The main concern addressed to me has to do with my decision to change the title of the Aboriginal Curator at Open Space. I now realize it is not my place to guide a conversation informed by questions of agency but rather to listen to, and to make space for, the knowledge that comes with lived experience. I value the opportunity to continue to learn from my colleagues with such experience. I apologize for not hearing my friends and colleagues when they advised keeping an Indigenous designation in the job title. I apologize to the staff, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, for not paying attention when they courageously told me that the practice of naming, who is taking up space and how they are doing so, fosters community in the face of white supremacy. I recognize my failure to take seriously the advice of the staff might result in a loss of faith in my leadership, and for that I am truly sorry.

I understand it is not my place to decide what significance names and titles play in these institutional roles when I have not lived through, nor experienced the detrimental effects of, systemic racism. Individuals who have been harmed by, and remain vulnerable to, systemic racism should be able to openly determine the terms of this discussion and the ways in which these mistakes are addressed with sensitivity and culpability. I want to be part of a constructive dialogue with our community; one that is informed by Indigenous and racialized artists, curators, researchers, theorists, and writers. I regret that I fell short here, and that is my mistake to learn from. As an ally it is my place to listen when mistakes are pointed out, to provide space, and to be present; I am here, I am listening, and I am committing to continuing this work.

There is a solid foundation at Open Space—one that will grow stronger because of our community, our readiness to mobilize, and our work towards anti-oppression. I am excited, humbled, and grateful to be new to these territories and recently appointed as executive director of Open Space, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to provide support, when appropriate, in facilitating these crucial dialogues, such as the importance of naming in relation to specific positions within artist-run culture. I recognize the privilege of being in this role, and the responsibility I have to challenge colonialism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and ablelism in it.

I am committed to working with the Board of Directors, the staff, the membership, and the community to ensure that Open Space is the critical, sustainable, and responsive artist-run centre we all expect it to be.

With respect,
Kegan McFadden

Links to the published information surrounding the community discourse arising from the Letter of Resignation by Open Space Aboriginal Curator France Trépanier:

Letter of Resignation by Aboriginal Curator France Trépanier

Call to Boycott Open Space Arts Society’s Call for ‘Curator of Exhibitions’ from the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective/Collectif des commissaires autochtones

Letter of Response from the Open Space Board of Directors

Statement from the new interim Open Space board of directors

Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 10:00 am

On Saturday, March 10, 2018, at the Indigenized/Racialized Communities and the Arts in Victoria forum, members of IBPOC Victoria, alongside members of other creative communities that are committed to the future of Open Space, announced that they would step forward as the organization’s new transitional board of directors in order to address the current crisis situation. The incoming group has taken over management of the organization at this critical time. The outgoing board stepped down to allow our succession, appointing us as the interim governing body before doing so. They share our desire to do what is necessary to stabilize Open Space. The crisis at Open Space jeopardized it’s programming, funding and standing in the community and we are taking the necessary steps to get the organization back on track.

The IBPOC Victoria forum was conceived in response to France Trépanier’s resignation letter, publicly circulated on February 21, and the “Call to Boycott Open Space Arts Society’s Call for ‘Curator of Exhibitions’” released by the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective on February 25, and was organized in the wake of local and national demands for there to be a constructive solution to the organization’s increasingly precarious situation. Ongoing pressure came in the form of staff resignations, artists and curators withdrawing exhibitions, and the University of Victoria Writing Department suspending its “Open Word” partnership with Open Space in support of the ACC boycott.

Addressing the significant concerns outlined in France’s resignation letter and the conditions of the ACC boycott letter will demand all of our experience and expertise, but we are confident that we will rise to the challenge given our shared abilities in community engagement, arts administration, and organizational governance. We will prioritize an apology ceremony for France. We will undertake an equity audit. We will undertake anti-oppression/cultural agility training and will invite other members of the Open Space community to access this training. We will review the role of the executive director. We already meet the diversity condition outlined in the ACC letter, and will work to make the Open Space board of directors an inclusive space that will continue to inspire participation from the Indigenous, Black an POC communities moving forward. And once we meet these requirements and the ACC boycott is lifted, we will hire an Indigenous Curator.

Open Space was founded as a visionary centre for interdisciplinary artistic practices and creative experimentation. Its approach to programming, both philosophically and practically, established it as a site that was ready, before many others, to engage meaningfully with Indigenous art, artists, curators and communities. The plan that we are proposing will focus on strengthening Open Space’s long-standing commitment to interdisciplinarity, inclusivity, community engagement, and critical conversation, and will restore the organization to its role as a leader in respectfully continuing the engagement of Indigenous artistic presence as central to its mandate.

We recognize that there are people from many communities who support Open Space and the significant role it has come to play in the arts ecosystem. We are a transitional board that is committed to seeing the organization through this crisis, and we encourage you to become a member of Open Space so that you can participate in the election of the organization’s new board at the next Annual General Meeting, We intend to respectfully engage all of the organization’s supporters while maintaining its place at the forefront of working respectfully with Indigenous artists, curators, communities and protocols.

Respectfully yours,

Charles Campbell
Eli Hirtle
Michelle Jacques
Doug Jarvis
Megan Quigley
Sabrina Williams

Charles Campbell
Chair, Interim Board of Directors

Attachment to the PDF verison of this letter.

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