Two local cultural institutions are getting a big assist from the Federal government. In a virtual announcement today, Guelph Member of Parliament Lloyd Longfield announced on behalf of Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault that the Art Gallery of Guelph and the Guelph Civic Museum will receive $100,000 from the Federal government. The funds will help support BIPOC programing, and assist with their safe re-opening.
“The Museum Assistance Program is intended to support heritage institutions and workers in the preservation and presentation of heritage collections, which, of course, is changing in these times because of COVID,” Longfield said. “We need to develop new ways to keep people safe as they interact with our displays and provide professional knowledge as we move forward and continue to develop and present Canadian heritage and arts.”
This allocation will go in part to the Art Gallery of Guelph to highlight the work of Black and Indigenous People of Colour with new acquisitions and educational programs, and to the Civic Museum as they collect and preserve items from the Black Lives Matter march in June and create new online programming around them. Both institutes will also use a portion of the funds for new health and safety procedures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect visitors.
“During this pandemic it’s important we remember that our community has lived through difficult times in the past, very challenging times,” said Tammy Adkin, the manager of Guelph Museums. “We continue to learn from those lessons in the past, and our museum records, shares and preserves those stories with our community.”
Back in July, Guelph Museums asked for donations of physical and digital items that commemorate the Black Lives Matter march on June 6. Adkin said that the Museum staff will be meeting with representatives from the Guelph Black Heritage Society in the next couple of weeks to look at the items and consider which ones they want to add to the Museum’s permanent collection.
“It’s not always that case that we take in new acquisitions and put them on display in short order, but we do anticipate that we will be mounting an exhibition to reflect that march and the community’s response to systemic racism within the next several months,” Adkin said.
Capturing the moment is something on the mind of the people that manage the art collections at the top of the hill at the Art Gallery of Guelph.
“We want our collection to reflect the community,” said Shauna McCabe, the director of the AGG. “One of the things that’s become really clear is that our heritage institutions have a critical role to play in recognizing and challenging systemic racism and oppression, and the Art Gallery of Guelph aims to address the issues that matter to our communities through our work with artists and with heightened support for artists who identify as Black and Indigenous People of Colour.”
Kayla “Kween” Gerber, who was one of the organizers of the Black Lives Matter march in June, and is a volunteer with the Guelph Black Heritage Society, welcomed the funding news saying that it was an important step to achieve more recognition for people in Guelph’s BIPOC community.
“As someone who was born and raised in this city, I saw a lack or representation, and it was difficult growing up in Guelph as a Woman of Colour,” Gerber said.”What we’ve been striving for is inclusivity, and intersectionality, so that we can bring groups of people together and unite as one force. I think that’s always been what Guelph Black Heritage has tried to do in their mission; to elevate our BIPOC community, alongside our allies, together.”
In terms of coming back from COVID, Adkin said that the Federal funds will help assure that people are able to continue to enjoy the Museum safely, while at the same time offering alternative programming through outdoor events. The Guelph Civic Museums and the Art Gallery of Guelph both re-opened in July, and they’re thankful for the help so they can stay open.
“We’re seeing the fruits of this investment and this investment not only benefits people in our community today, but it enables us to capture the story and preserve it for future generations,” Adkin added.