An existing space at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has become a new home for local artistic statements.
The museum announced its new Community Corridor on Tuesday, a main-floor space near its classrooms area, and is accepting submissions for art or projects until May 13, with plans for its first official exhibition scheduled for July.
The museum hopes the Community Corridor will allow the museum to amplify messages about human rights from artists, students or groups whose voices have gone unheard.
"We do hope to see a variety of groups coming in. This is really about building a relationship with the community, building trust with the community," says Chandra Erlendson, the museum’s director of Indigenous relations and community engagement.
"It’s not a traditional exhibition space but it’s a very inviting, visually appealing space for this kind of interaction."
“We do hope to see a variety of groups coming in. This is really about building a relationship with the community, building trust with the community.” – Chandra Erlendson
The Community Corridor location has odd aspects that have made it a challenge for showing art.
It is dominated by a large concrete wall, and since hooks can’t be fastened to it, works must be hung on a wire, restricting how heavy they can be.
Lengthy exposure to sunlight from a bank of windows opposite the wall can also damage paintings and photographs.
In New Beginnings, a series of photographs by young newcomers to Canada that is using the corridor space, the pictures are reprinted as a collage on four white corrugated boards that are light enough to be hung on the wire while keeping the original photographs away from the rays and heat of the sun.
The Community Corridor concept has been in the works since 2018 when the space hosted the National Story Blanket, an installation that represented future visions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.
“We’ve literally had hundreds of requests by communities wanting to present their ideas, whether those are rights–themed, arts–based programs or student work.” – Chandra Erlendson
Erlendson says plans to unveil the space in 2020 had to be put on hold, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We’ve literally had hundreds of requests by communities wanting to present their ideas, whether those are rights-themed, arts-based programs or student work," she says.
The pandemic hasn’t been the only difficulty the CMHR has faced in the past two years though. An external investigation revealed in August 2020 the museum suffered from a culture of racism that had gone unaddressed by management for years.
A year later, a further report by Winnipeg lawyer Laurelle Harris found a culture of discrimination continued to affect the museum’s Black and Indigenous employees.
"This project is not born out of that and is not a response to it," Erlendson says. "But I do think it is quite timely and it works well, and we have taken into consideration some of the things we have learned from those recommendations of the Harris report."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.