Rungh receives response to Aboriginal Curator Resignation from Open Space
March 2, 2018 – Rungh has received a response from Sandra Hudson, a communications consultant, authorized by Open Space to respond. Below is the text of the email received.
"I have been asked to pass the following three pieces of information on to you regarding the situation at Open Space – a letter from the Board Chair at Open Space which is currently on the Open Space website, a statement from Open Space Executive Director, Kegan McFadden and information regarding the IBPOC Forum which will be held at Open Space on March 10.
Please let me know if you have any questions for myself or anyone at Open Space.
Letter from Board Chair
Dear Open Space Community,
As you are all aware, artist-run centres are places of flux and dynamism. Unlike large institutions, we are driven by a community of artists who do paid work and who volunteer, and in accordance with the Societies Act we are governed by a Board of Directors. Part of our responsibility as artists is to express both circumstances and possibilities in the world, and the board is currently working on three areas to address concerns recently raised by our community: anti-oppression/cultural agility training, an equity audit, and an examination of board diversity.
Anti-Oppression/Cultural Agility Training: Based upon the important suggestion of cultural safety training and the ensuing discussion at the first transition planning meeting with the staff and board in October 2017, and in emails and discussions with the Executive Director we have begun to pursue anti-oppression/cultural agility training for board and staff members. In our most recent board meeting (21 February 2018), the plan for cultural safety training was ratified through a motion to create a Cultural Safety Working Group, who will seek outside guidance as we work to make our space safer for everyone.
Equity: Our Executive Director and the Board have been working together to address issues around human resources that have arisen as the organization has grown into its current shape. Already we have been working to make permanent and non-precarious positions for the Open Space to address structural conditions (such as contract work) that can make working at an ARC unsustainable for employees and hence led to some of the transitional flux in our organization. We have enhanced the Indigenous curator position from part-time to full-time with commensurate salary adjustment as an indication of our desire to support Indigenous curators — not to dismantle the work of what so many have done. This new full-time position will carry a culturally designated title that reflects self-determination and agency.
We are grateful for the work of France Trépanier, Peter Morin, Gerry Ambers, and Sarah Hunt and the many others who have developed and shaped the Indigenous presence at Open Space. We are deeply appreciative for the support of the Canada Council and BC Arts Council for recognizing this need and for making it possible.
We wish to better understand our blind spots at Open Space and to do better in our hiring processes and based on advice from our community, we will be conducting an equity audit. This process is also being researched and organized by the Cultural Safety Working Group.
Board Diversity: Our board has recently felt the ripple of transition, including the loss of our incoming president (due to relocation out of province) and two board members: Two of these three people identified as Indigenous or people of colour. The board can be improved along lines of diversity and is inquiring into how we can better connect to the communities Open Space serves and wishes to serve. The board needs to be grounded in these communities and is committed to doing the work to create a diverse board.
Going into the transition process in Fall 2016, the Executive Director at the time created a strategic planning process that the Open Space community participated in (staff, curators, board, membership, and other invitedcommunity members). Out of that collective process came the criteria for our new Executive Director and hiring process. After an extensive circulation of the call for applications, the list of candidates included Indigenous people and people of colour. Our selection process, based on the collectively generated strategic plan identified the current Executive Director as the best person to move our mandate forward. We are grateful for the current Executive Director’s vision and hard work for the organization. We will also be revisiting our strategic plan to make sure it accurately reflects our subsequent important discussions about Indigenization and the process of decolonization at Open Space.
We feel the issues currently being raised presents us with an opportunity to resist and challenge “business as usual” and will continue to actively work to make Open Space a place of thriving for artists, staff, and community members who are Indigenous, Black, and people of colour, queer, and trans. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn, and we are committed to transforming structures of white supremacy, colonialism, binary-cis-heteronormativity, ableism, classism, and ageism. Going forward, we wish to build a better community through the training and changes to the organization that we outline above. We wish to create a welcoming space for the community and for the new Indigenous curator in the community.
We have identified these initiatives to ensure Open Space is truly open. Addressing these issues is neither comfortable nor easy. We acknowledge that there may be missteps along the way. We are grateful to a community that both supports us and identifies these missteps, allowing us to continue to grow.
We realize this is a difficult time for the organization, but we feel hopeful as it presents an opportunity to do better.
Board President, Open Space Arts Society
Statement from Open Space Executive Director, Kegan McFadden
Upon much reflection, and in conversation with the Board President and staff, a cultural designation will be reinstated to the title of the curatorial position at Open Space. With the expressed understanding that this position would go from part-time to full-time while continuing to be filled by a person of Indigenous ancestry, I initially saw the retitling from ‘Aboriginal Curator’ to ‘Curator of Exhibitions’ as a gesture towards equality among curatorships in our multidisciplinary environment. In altering the title the goal was not to de-Indigenize Open Space, but rather to place all positions at our artist-run centre on equal ground without emphasizing difference, in the belief that all positions benefit from the work and perspectives of Indigenous and racialized people. I now realize it is not my place to guide the conversation but rather to listen to, and to make space for, the knowledge that comes with lived experience. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to learn from colleagues with such experience. - Kegan McFadden, Executive Director of Open Space
Information regarding the IBPOC Forum which will be held at Open Space on March 10
A public forum will be held at Open Space on Saturday 10 March at 2 pm, to discuss the situation for IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour) artists in Victoria and their relationship to cultural institutions. The meeting will be the first in a series to flesh out these issues and members of the IBPOC community will be given the opportunity to speak.
The forum follows the resignation of France Trépanier and the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective's (ACC) call to boycott the position of "Curator of Exhibitions" at Open Space. The forum has been organized independently of Open Space and is supported by the ACC.
Please join this public forum, contribute to the discussion and share this invitation with your friends and colleagues.