At the start of this week, we published a statement of solidarity with the anti-racism protests and demands for justice in the deaths of George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and so many others. Despite what some in the media and government have claimed, anti-Black racism and police violence is systemic in Canada. As a national arts publisher, Canadian Art has a decades-long history in this country—and carries a legacy that has often been exclusionary to the point of harm. We have only recently begun a process of change that works toward diversity and inclusivity, in mandate and action.
But what does that actually mean? It means centring the voices of Black artists and Indigenous artists. It means publishing, supporting and contributing to discourses on art and culture from BIPOC communities. It means asking ourselves how we can work with care to build relationships with the communities to whom we have caused harm. It means recognizing that contemporary art is, still, predominately white, and it means we have to actively work against that dominance every day.
Change doesn’t come without awkward missteps and downright mistakes. For me, that means listening, acting and “failing better”—a phrase borrowed from a recent conversation with curator Pamela Edmonds. Our work environment has not always been safe for or supportive of the work of BIPOC writers and artists, and we are working to change that by actively adopting anti-racism as our framework. I hope that, as an organization, we can recognize this global social-justice movement as a call to permanently change the culture of Canadian Art and contemporary art in Canada to be accountable, inclusive and rigorous.
If this seems unfamiliar to you, I encourage you to get to know, and then support, the organizations doing anti-racist social-justice work in your community. Black Lives Matter has chapters in Vancouver and Toronto; the Black Legal Action Centre delivers legal aid services and resources for low- and no-income Black residents of Ontario; Black Health Alliance, Black Youth Helpline and the Black Mental Health Fund support a range of health initiatives; and you’ll find organizations supporting Black art and culture across Canada—Hogan’s Alley Society, Black Space Winnipeg, Nia Centre for the Arts—these are just a few.
For this week’s newsletter, we’ve selected some articles to revisit, with perspectives that help articulate how art and activism are entwined through creative labour, public protest and cultural advocacy, alongside joy, celebration and resistance. I hope this offers a generative interruption in your regular newsfeeds.
Jayne Wilkinson, Editor-in-Chief