June 26, 2020
Dear members of the Visual Arts Centre community,
In light of recent events and protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, on behalf of The Visual Arts Centre, I felt it was important to share our thoughts, policies, and goals with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Visual Arts Centre unequivocally condemns systemic racism and related violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We recognize that racial injustice and violence is deeply ingrained in Canadian society and as a cultural institution, it is our responsibility to identify and work to dismantle and eradicate racism in all of its forms.
Outraged by the recent horrific examples of systemic racism in North American society, I have been reflecting on what sparked my early interest in social justice. Growing up in the 80s and 90s as a bi-racial person on the outskirts of Toronto, with a Black Jamaican father and a second generation Canadian mother of Ukrainian descent, racism was and unfortunately remains a part of my family’s lived experience. This led me to my early interest in social justice with a focus on critically engaged approaches to multiculturalism, and my dedication to researching and employing visual art education as a means to examine and dismantle racism. This has included research into the lived narratives of museum educators of colour; social justice art education programming in contemporary art museums; and bi-racial identity research in art education.
There is so much more that can and must be done to combat systemic racism in Canada. At the Visual Arts Centre, we are working diligently to further listen, dialogue, amplify voices, and fight for justice. Since 2017, we have:
- Created an equitable hiring protocol in line with Canada’s Employment Equity Act to work to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities, and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. This includes a self-identification form.
- Ensured that our employment opportunities are posted in locations that reach individuals who have been affected by systemic barriers to employment in Canada.
- Performed an assessment of employee diversity.
- Ensured our conference speakers include a diversity of voices from BIPOC communities.
- Developed selection committee guidelines for the McClure Gallery, that address diversity considerations for choosing gallery selection committee members. This has included the participation of at least one BIPOC community representative to the gallery committee.
Following the passing of George Floyd and the many other victims of violent oppression, we have also recently established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group in order to take further concrete action towards dismantling racism and oppression within the VAC. Additionally, we are committed to:
- Providing bias, anti-racism, and anti-oppression resources for administrative staff, teachers, and board members.
- Performing additional and more in-depth diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments.
- Continuing to develop and implement our diversity, equity, and inclusion policy.
- Continuing to work on updating our mission statement to ensure it clearly emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Expand our scholarship programme to further include vulnerable populations, including BIPOC community members.
- Reaching out to and partnering with BIPOC organizations in a more active way.
- Applying the principles of our equity hiring policy to the recruitment of new members for our Board of Directors.
- Ensure that our calls for projects are posted in locations that reach individuals who have been affected by systemic barriers to exhibiting their work in Canada.
We recognize this is a partial list of what is possible and does not provide enough measurable detail. We will continue to keep you informed of the Advisory Group’s recommendations and actions as they evolve.
I welcome any feedback or ideas that you may have about the VAC’s past or future Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. We are committed to being part of the positive change that is necessary in our society and strongly believe that art education can be a powerful force in this effort. With your ongoing support and input, we can ensure that this moment in history becomes a turning point for meaningful and lasting change.