Skip to content

May we suggest

News / June 18, 2020

News Roundup: Former Staff of Canadian Museum for Human Rights Speak Out on Workplace Racism

Also: Black artists talk representation at Ottawa’s commercial galleries, faculty and students call for anti-racism actions at leading art schools, and the Banff Centre does significant layoffs
An interior staircase at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo: <a href="">Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose</a>. CC BY-SA 2.0. An interior staircase at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Former employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights speak out about how they faced racism and mistreatment there—and say that museum leaders have known about it for much longer than they have told the media. On June 10, CBC Manitoba reported that former museum employees Armando Perla, Shania Pruden and Julie White posted on social media about their experiences at this national museum using the hashtag #cmhrstoplying. In that article, the CEO stated the museum needed to “improve.” The next day, on June 11, a follow-up article stated that former employee Thiané Diop “was ‘livid’ when the museum’s CEO said claims of racism at the institution came as a surprise.” And on June 18, in another follow-up article, former employee Gabriela Agüero told CBC Manitoba that staff were sometimes told not to show LGBTQ content to select visitors—a procedure the museum admits was true from 2015 to 2017.

Students and faculty call for change at leading Canadian arts schools. The Faculty Union of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design has issued a statement calling for “tuition waivers for all Black Canadian and Indigenous students accepted to NSCAD from now until 2025” and “transformation of the Board of Governors to include Black Canadian and Indigenous members by the end of the 2020-21 academic year,” among other measures. And a new public letter to the dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto states, “We, a collective of students and alumni, urge you to take immediate action to dismantle anti-Black racism at DFALD,” in part through immediate hiring of “3 more Black and 2 more Indigenous tenure track faculty” and “fund[ing] professional mentorship by Toronto-based organizations e.g. the Black Architects and Interior Designers Association (BAIDA), Building Equality in Architecture (BEAT), and Black Artist Union (BAU).”

Black artists and arts workers discuss lack of representation at Ottawa’s commercial galleries. Kosisochukwu Nnebe, who is an artist, and Malika Welsh, an arts administrator and art-history grad who works with the Ottawa Black Arts Kollective, spoke to the Ottawa Citizen in an article examining the paucity of Black artists represented by city’s commercial art dealers. The article came after an infographic widely shared on social media indicated that, as the article puts it, “of eight galleries representing more than 400 artists, just two artists are Black.”

A new report suggests there’s an overwhelming need to establish a national network of legal clinics to support the arts sector in Canada. Now More Than Ever: Towards a National Network of Legal Clinics for the Arts surveyed more than 1,150 Canadian artists, arts organizations and lawyers, and found that “94 per cent of artists feel strongly they are facing unique legal needs,” including copyright, contracts and appropriation, says a release. The vast majority also feel strongly “they lack information and training on the legal issues related to their work, and have inadequate access to legal services.”

Banff Centre permanently lays off 284 staff, cancels in-person classes. “Only a quarter of the usual staff at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity remain on the job,” CBC Calgary reports. “An additional 100 people remain on temporary layoff, leaving 123 fully employed.” Also: “Its conferences and hospitality service business dried up —40 per cent of the centre’s revenue—as the provincial government rolled out physical distancing restrictions to limited the spread of COVID-19.”

Heidi Reitmaier is no longer with the Art Gallery of Ontario. Up until recently, Reitmaier was deputy director and Richard and Elizabeth Currie Chief of Education and Programs there. Prior to that, she was executive director and CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto. In an email to Canadian Art, she says she plans to work on some consulting projects moving ahead.

The Ontario Arts Foundation awards Alex Bierk the Laura Ciruls Painting Award​​. The $5,000 award is given annually to recognize an Ontario-based mid-career painter.