A New Day, A New Director

by Ryan Rice

The appointment of a new Director of the Aboriginal Art Centre (formerly the Indian and Inuit Art Centres) at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has finally been realized after numerous years of uncertainty. Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Linda Grussani enters the position with an exemplary record that includes more than 10 years of experience as an arts administrator and a strong advocate for Aboriginal arts and curatorial practice. Linda worked in the Indigenous and Canadian art departments at the National Gallery of Canada and was key to the research and development of the Art of This Land permanent exhibition. Her commitment to advancing Aboriginal art is supported by a combination of her enthusiastic drive, extensive knowledge of the field and arts management skills, all of which will support a fresh strategic vision the Aboriginal Art Centre truly needs.

The Aboriginal Art Centre is the last official cultural program in the Canadian government sector and administers an extraordinary national collection of over 4000 works of art. The Aboriginal Art Centre has a dynamic, longstanding history that is crucial to the establishment of an ongoing Aboriginal arts presence critical to a national identity.[1] In 1990, a consultation group that included former directors Tom Hill and Rick Hill recommended that the centre maintain a quality national public collection and was mandated (and supported by the authority of the Treasury Board of Canada) to continue acquiring artworks for the collection with an emphasis on new and emerging artists. Many artists and curators including Robert Houle and the late Joane Cardinal Schubert further supported the centre’s direction.

Upon her departure from the National Gallery of Canada, Charlie Hill, Curator of Canadian Art acknowledged Linda’s work ethic and generous spirit. In a letter dated 15 December 2012, Hill wrote, “I can’t thank you enough Linda for all your work for the National Gallery. You’ve been a hard worker, a superb colleague and I know many projects would not have come to fruition without you.” It is with certainty that the Aboriginal Art Centre is in good hands, and Linda will lead the program and national collection forward effectively with great success.

1 For a brief history of the Aboriginal Art Centre (through 2002), read “Presence and Absence: Indian Art in the 1990s” by Ryan Rice in Definitions de la culturel visuelle V. Mondialisation et postcolonialisme, Musee d’art contemporaine de Montreal, 2002.

Ryan Rice, Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake, is a curator, critic and creative consultant based in Toronto. His institutional and independent curatorial career spans 30 years in community, museums, artist run centres, public spaces and galleries. Rice focuses his extensive curatorial research and writing on contemporary and Onkwehón:we art. He has been published in numerous periodicals, journals and exhibition catalogues including Rendezvous with the Indigenous Art Collection: how to raise a flag in Curating Lively Objects, (Routledge Press 2021), Bait: Couzyn Van Heuvelen (Artspace 2019), Taiakoia’tenhatie / Freefall: The Photography of Shelley Niro for Shelley Niro: Scotiabank Award (Steidl/Scotiabank 2018) and Early Days: Indigenous Art at the McMichael (Figure 1 Publishing and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection 2023).

In 2022, Rice curated three solo exhibitions; Jordan Bennett: Souvenir at Onsite Gallery, Pageant: Natalie King at Centre [3] and Versification: January Rogers at daphne Art Centre and advanced two public art commissions as the Indigenous Public Art Curator with Waterfront Toronto. He also received the 2022 Changemakers BIPOC Award from Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries (GOG).

In 2023, he co-curated the 2023 Bonavista Biennale: HOST (Newfoundland) and he was appointed to OCAD University’s Onsite Gallery as the Executive Director and Curator, of Indigenous Art. His contributions to community, leadership, and organizational experience includes co-founder of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, the Inuit Art Foundation Board of Directors, and an advisory member of Longhouse Labs and AArtplace.