Mary Lou Meiers was recently putting the final touches on a new art exhibit at St. Paul’s Centre that brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to explore truth and reconciliation.
Meiers is the curator for the Call to Action #83 Art Project: Round 2, which had its virtual opening on Sunday at the end of St. Paul Centre’s regular Sunday service. The 12-piece exhibit is the second iteration of the project, which is now on display and open to the public.
“This time, we changed it up,” said Meiers.
For the first round, 16 artists (eight Indigenous and eight non-Indigenous) gathered a couple of years ago at the home of Paul Shilling. Following a sweat lodge ceremony and a feast, they determined the order in which they would make their works, alternating between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, with each artist taking inspiration from the previous artist’s work.
For Round 2, all the artist names were put in a bowl and drawn at random. The chain starts with non-Indigenous artist Jennie Clark.
“Fate chose the order. There are some clusters of Indigenous artists and some clusters of non-indigenous artists,” said Meiers.
Each artist draws inspiration for their piece from the piece before theirs. Artists are only allowed to see the previous piece before creating their work.
“That simulated the introduction of a disruption here on Turtle Island. It was the settler from afar ... and how it introduced change to the island that had been inhabited by Indigenous (peoples),” she said. “We had some new artists step in, and it was a lovely opportunity. That’s what happens in life.”
The first piece in Round 2 was by Clark. Meiers said it’s interesting that Clark chose to name her piece Hope, as that was the same name as the first piece in Round 1, painted by Xavier Fernandes.
This time around, Fernandes participated again, chosen as the 12th artist.
“Hers is clearly an emotional constellation. One of feeling,” said Meiers. “It sets an incredible tone. We’ve come to the end of the second round with artists who have inspired each other to go deeper. It’s beautiful.”
In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, Call to Action 83 reads, “We call upon the Canada Council for the Arts to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.”
“It’s a generational opportunity to heal, to come together and imagine a new way forward in peace and harmony that can only be done when each one of us as individuals takes time to hear the stories so we can change our internal perception,” said Meiers.
Plans are in the works for Round 3 and Round 4 to take place after COVID-19 is under control, with some returning and some new artists.
As the gallery couldn’t host an official opening due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, Meiers said each artist provided a recording of themselves explaining the thought process behind their piece. Organizers are figuring out now how to package those for art patrons to enjoy.
Call to Action #83, both Rounds 1 and 2, are on currently on display at St. Paul’s Centre.