University of British Columbia
Moving beyond reconciliation through public indigenous art
In March 2014, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) wrapped up nearly four years of public hearings into Indian residential schools, but for many Aboriginal artists, the story has just begun to be told.
Over the past three years, Dr. Dylan Robinson, a Stó:lõ First Nations scholar and artist, worked with scholars and artists in examining the role of the arts in the TRC. He is now collaborating with other First Nations artists on ways to better engage the Canadian public in understanding the history and ongoing impacts of residential schools on Aboriginal peoples across Canada. His research is examining the use of more traditional forms of public art, such as sculptures or monuments, as well as new forms such as performance art or interventions that encourage dialogue between members of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal public. Some of the works Robinson studies will include those funded by the TRC, which allocated $20 million for the creation of new commemorative projects related to residential school history.
"I'm interested both in new forms of public art, and new relationships where the public considers their intergenerational responsibility to address the contemporary effects of the residential schools on Aboriginal peoples," says Robinson, who is also documenting the history of Indigenous public art across North America and Australia. "Public works have the potential to provoke, interest and ask difficult and challenging questions. They also have the potential to have a lasting and positive effect on our understanding of Indigenous history and the social issues Indigenous communities face."
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