By Nick Pearce
Canada Counsel for the Arts recognizes gallery
Taking effect immediately, the Canada Council for the Arts has nearly doubled the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery’s funding from $105, 000 to $200, 000 annually for the next three years.
This money is allocated in three-year funding cycles and the counsel’s Engage and Sustain program, which promotes community engagement and participation in art galleries. While the gallery has multiple pools of funding, this one is “very important” for the gallery’s future efforts, according to Agnes Gallery Director Jan Allen.
Allen said the funding would be particularly oriented toward the museum’s work with contemporary art.
“[It will] give us the resources to deepen how we work with artists and what we do with our communities,” she said.
So far, this funding will involve opening up opportunities like lengthening artists’ residencies at Queen’s and allowing more time for discussion or collaboration with local art-goers and community members.
One such example will be Toronto-based artist Tau Lewis, who will be coming to campus this fall. Allen said the funding will allow him to stay longer and work alongside a pair of artists from the United States specialized in working with disabilities.
“Often if we’re installing an exhibition, we’ll bring an artist and there may be a research visit but it’s rather brief and makes for limited encounters for connecting with staff faculty and community members,” Allen said.
“This way we can keep them on longer and increase the number of conversations, increase people’s understanding of the art and in some cases create opportunities to connect visiting artists with other artists in this community.”
The funding will also allow the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery to similarly focus on outreach. Allen pointed to the current Kent Monkman exhibit titled Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience as an existing example of future efforts. Currently, 13 Queen’s courses have incorporated the showing as part of their class work, including students in geography and planning, environmental studies, policy studies and political studies.
Likewise, the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre has worked with the Agnes to invite Indigenous youth to the gallery and engage with its creative environment.
“It gives me goosebumps because it can be productive and an avenue for change for people of all perspectives,” Allen said of the visits.
She then went on to say that much of this contemporary art could be put into a useful dialogue with the gallery’s historical collection, asking visitors to consider how the collections’ meanings relate to each other.
Allen added much of these developments wouldn’t necessarily transform the gallery but would build on expanding its services. Regardless, the extreme competition for federal arts funding does suggest a certain level of confidence in the gallery that could contribute to a stronger service.
“Well you say you want to do it but can you really do it?” Allen said about typical federal responses to funding proposals,
“This grant is saying, we believe you can do it and we want to see what you’ll do with this. The next three years people are going to see the impact of that.”