Indigenous art an essential part of new OPL-LAC Joint Facility


Ontario Construction News staff writer

With construction set to begin later this year on the Ottawa Public Library – Library and Archives Canada (OPL-LAC) Joint Facility project, the Indigenous Public Art Program has issued five calls to Indigenous artists to honour, support and showcase Indigenous art created in Canada.

Dawn Saunders Dahl is the curator of Indigenous art for the Indigenous public art program. She took some time to answer our questions about the vision behind the program and the calls to artists.

I’ve been working for 20 years in arts administration. Over the last 10+ years, I developed specific calls for Indigenous artists, programs and events. I’m currently working primarily with local Indigenous artists and groups in the Bow Valley and around Alberta, developing public art opportunities, programs, jobs, education and events,” she said.

“I’m honoured to be able to facilitate and provide bridges to address gaps that exist in public art processes. What excites me most is that I put process into action. I ensure that Indigenous voices are heard consistently throughout the processes and are part of all the conversations, offering space for Indigenous voices to provide input and guidance.”

Through Indigenous engagement sessions with local Algonquin Anishinabe communities, Ottawa Gatineau’s urban Indigenous community, and input sought from other First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation people a national online survey found:

  • There is an interest for the Indigenous Art Program to include opportunities to celebrate Indigenous art, culture and heritage.
  • The host Algonquin Anishinabe Nation wants to share their stories through art.
  • There must be opportunities for both young and experienced artists, as well as for those who work in a broad variety of mediums and styles.
  • It is important to ensure that the artists are provided steps for success within a process that is accessible where artists could see their artwork in the facility.
  • It is important to include the host nation as well as provide opportunities for Indigenous artists from across Canada to also share their stories and artwork in this national facility.
  • These artworks could influence future programs and acquisitions through exhibits and events.

“The facility will be located on traditional territory of the Algonquin people and will hold records of the history of these lands, and it is crucial to include, understand and celebrate art and storytelling from Indigenous perspectives so that all Canadians have an opportunity to learn about our collective history,”

There is a call specifically offered to the Algonquin host nation as the project partners and curator felt it was important to recognize that the facility is located on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation.


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