In This Place…

In 1998, I had the privilege being the curatorial intern at the NSCAD gallery during the first survey exhibit of Black artists in Nova Scotia. At the time, I traveled the province with curator, David Woods, hanging the show and afterwards I researched and wrote a paper about the history of Black artists in Nova Scotia that the exhibit revealed. I learned something essential from David Woods that I have carried with me since about how to value a community even if others seem determined to ignore it.


In_this_place_catalog_coverOne of my fellow students, Justin Augustine, was featured in the show, as was the great Jim Shirley, who in 1975 had been the first Black artist to have a solo exhibit in Nova Scotia. He flew in for the opening. NSCAD’s first Black graduate, Audrey Dear Hesson, was also included as well as a brilliant group of quilters from New Glasgow. There were actually 46 artists in all, and every one seemed to add another dimension to the rich story.


A month ago, I was contacted by a student archivist from Halifax who had come across my paper while researching the exhibit. That work, from so many years ago, has sat buried in a filing cabinet until now. As part of the paper, I had interviewed several curators including Peter Dykhuis, then at NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens, now at the Dalhousie Art Gallery, who had said “I hope that twenty years from now some archivist might find Anna Leonowens’ name attached to it; that’s nice. But ultimately I hope that BANNS [Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia] is completely affiliated with this thing… That’s what I want.”


What are the chances?


The history of the struggle of Black artists in Nova Scotia to negotiate visibility and recognition that I researched and wrote about 20 years ago is clearly ongoing, but as I had originally hoped, my bit of work seems finally to be contributing positively.


The Visual Arts Nova Scotia archivist, Chris Shapones, has just written a lovely blogpost about discovering my paper. She has also invited me to sit on a panel on Monday, July 10th at 7pm in Halifax at the Art Bar on Granville St, along with Woods and others to discuss the exhibit. After 20 years, I can’t wait!