Credit: Museum of Vancouver
The Museum of Vancouver (MOV) is pleased to announce its newest feature exhibition There is Truth Here, Creativity and Resilience in Children’s Art from Indian Residential and Day Schools. Curated by Andrea Walsh, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, and originally held at the Legacy Art Gallery in Victoria, the exhibition has been adapted with additional works from the MOV collection. Sharon Fortney, Curator of Indigenous Collections and Engagement at MOV, leads the project of bringing the exhibition to Vancouver.
There is Truth Here, opening on April 5, 2019, focuses on rare surviving artworks created by children who attended the Inkameep Day School (Osoyoos), St Michael’s Indian Residential School (Alert Bay); the Alberni Indian Residential School (Vancouver Island) and Mackay Indian Residential School (Manitoba). The focus of the exhibition is not on the schools themselves, but upon witnessing the experiences of the children/survivors as conveyed through their childhood artworks – for some the only surviving material from their childhoods.
There is Truth Here brings a new line to bear on the role of art as part of children’s knowledge, identity, and experiences of Indian Residential and Day Schools. Through paintings, drawings, sewing, beading, drumming, and singing, and drama produced by children and youth who attended them in British Columbia and Manitoba the exhibition seeks to contribute in vital and new ways to dialogues and initiative about truth-telling, reconciliation, and redress in Canada. “When we think about the visual legacy of the residential schools, they are in the thousands of pictures of children. But they were taken of children, not by children. And they were taken to demonstrate the value of what the government saw as this assimilative policy that was being carried out in the schools. So, these pictures are often of children in uniforms, and they are anonymous. But they are not, because they were brothers and sisters and cousins and daughters and sons and grandsons and granddaughters. And although we can’t—nor should we—feel like we have access to those relations, what the art does is highlight that all the children in those pictures were wonderful little children…they had ideas and they had creativity,” says Andrea Walsh, curator of the exhibition. “There is creativity to these pieces and there is a resilience to them. They were staying strong. The pieces here are evidence of that strength.”
The first-person perspectives of Survivors and former students, their families, and communities are told via children’s creativity to bring a multi-generational perspective on the lives of children in the schools. The exhibition explores the common thread of historical resilience in the creation of the artworks and speaks to the importance of the art today as nodes of healing and resurgence.