In November 2018, Ace was selected as the first Indigenous artist for the newly established Art + Law Indigenous Artist in Residence Program. This exciting new residency came about as a partnership between the Arts Council Windsor & Region, the University of Windsor Faculty of Law and School of Creative Arts in support of contemporary Indigenous art and its practices as an integral educational opportunity for both students and community. Being the first of its kind, the Art + Law residency brought together 94 students, faculty, and participants from the Indigenous community and the general public around a collaborative project.
Ace proposed a collaborative work that would coalesce a very complex legal document, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s – Calls to Action (download here), into a single work of art taking the form of an 11.5 metre long contemporary wampum belt. Working in the Armouries Art Gallery in the School of Creative Arts, each participant was asked to confirm their participation by first surrendering their rights to the work by signing a witnessed document and symbolically accepting one dollar in exchange. The surrender was a wry reference to the treaty making process in Canada, and also reflected in the work’s title, For as long as the sun shines, grass grows and water flows.
Subsequent to their surrender of rights, each participant was then provided with an 8 x 10 inch black velvet covered stretched canvas panel with embedded floral components made from capacitors; a kit with glass beads and electronic components to complete the leaf and stem work and connect the electronic component floral motifs; a single TRC Call to Action; a piece of vellum; and a small tobacco pouch.
Each workshop session began with an overview of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined the impact of the Residential School system on more than 150,000 Indigenous children and the final report consisting of 94 Calls to Action for reparation. The participants were then asked to hand write in graphite on vellum their individual call to action. This provided each of the participants with an opportunity for private reflection or public discussion on their particular call to action while working on completing the floral and stem work of their panel. To complete each panel a row of single, double and triple hand written vellum calls to action were rolled and wrapped with red glass beads and affixed to the lower portion of each panel. The red velvet tobacco pouch offering completed the panel and was mounted between the floral work at the top of each panel. Finally, a single row of white heart (red) trade beads was added that extended down the right edge of each panel connecting it to the next. The participants finished 54 panels, 94 handwritten calls to action in 4 days. All panels were mounted together in a continuous horizontal row set against a larger painted blue strip resembling a long belt that was flanked on either end with a copper end piece with multi-coloured telephone or communication wire extending out from it and cascading to the gallery floor.
Two complimentary works by Ace were juxtaposed against the collaborative work to provide additional context on the impact of Residential School on Ace’s family and community: How can you expect me to reconcile, when I know the truth? (2018); and a précis of 12 works selected from the 30 work suite Memory Landscape (2014). By completing the collaborative work, Ace and the 94 participants completed Call to Action #83, in particular “for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process;” and Call to Action #28, “law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations.”
reconciliationsyllabus (February 28, 2019): Art, Law, and Community: Truth and Reconciliation through Art
CBC Windsor Morning News (November 13, 2018): University of Windsor artist announces first of its kind project
CBC News (November 12, 2018): Contemporary Wampum belt by UWindsor artist-in-residence ‘carries a strong message’
Radio Canada ICI Windsor (November 12, 2018): L’art autochtone pour former les étudiants en droit et en arts visuels
PARTICIPANTS (In order of the Calls to Action worked on):