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United we stand

The AGO hosted part of Canada’s first ever Black Curators Forum. According to one AGO curator, the participants offer hope for an inspiring future.

Attendees at the Black Curators Forum

Black Curators Forum, Taken at The Power Plant, 2019. Provided by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. Photo: Henry Chan.

In October 2019, the inaugural edition of Canada’s first-ever Black Curators Forum was recently hosted at the AGO and The Power Plant. The intergenerational collective of Black curators who took part were either independent practitioners or from a number of arts institutions across Canada, and represent a range of stages on the curatorial career path. “We were able to gather this exceptional group, with varied interests, to unite around the idea of what it means to be a Black curator in Canada,” says Julie Crooks, AGO’s Associate Curator of Photography.

Julie Crooks and Montreal based independent curator Dominique Fontaine joined Gaëtane Verna, Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and Pamela Edmonds, Senior Curator at McMaster Museum of Art, and the group laid the groundwork for this historic event. The Forum benefited from the generous support of the Canada Arts Council and was created with the intention of sharing knowledge, fostering support and innovating new strategies for the unique challenges faced by Black curators. 

Over the span of three days from October 25 to 27, attendees participated in facilitated talks and round-table discussions, and made visits to local galleries and Art Toronto. One of the Forum’s highlights was a keynote address from the Director of the Yale Center for British Art, Courtney J Martin. Her talk focused on the detailed stages of her own career trajectory, which has taken her to several institutions, working with a range of artists.

The Black Curators Forum has made intergenerational dialogue one of its core objectives, making sure the Black curatorial voices of tomorrow are well equipped for their jobs. Reflecting on the event, Crooks commented that “the group of younger women and men that took part was exceptional. We are thinking about the next generation and succession, and if they were any indication of what’s to come, then the future bodes well.”

Though it’s still too early for concrete future plans, the Forum’s attendees will continue to examine how, in the face of marginalization and the threat of anti-Black racism, curators can act as change-makers and social innovators. Some next steps include the development of a  knowledge-sharing platform and plans for articles to be written by some attendees.

The hope is that through sharing their unique identities, struggles and triumphs,  they can make powerful, long-lasting contributions to the art world and community at large

If you’re looking for captivating artwork that reflects the mission of the Black Curators Forum, stay tuned for exhibitions coming in 2021 including  The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean photographs curated by Julie Crooks and Zun Lee’s Fade Resistance, curated by Sophie Hackett.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under.  

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