In 2005, a group of Indigenous curators came together to develop a long-term strategy in order to better support a community of current and future Indigenous curators. Barry Ace, Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, Ron Noganosh, Ryan Rice, and Cathy Mattes were key members who brought forward the idea of creating a collective of Indigenous curators and to create moments to have conversations about the state of Indigenous curatorial practice in Canada. The Indigenous Curatorial Collective / Collectif des commissaires autochtones (ICCA) was launched as a response to the authority afforded to the non-Indigenous curatorial and academic community within the discipline of Indigenous arts in Canada. “A Proposal for a Framework for Action” is a document that was created in order to provide long-term strategic support for the Indigenous curatorial community and to point to the need to have a roundtable discussion to point to crucial issues faced by Indigenous curators at that time. When it was published on 15 April 2005, it was widely acknowledged that there were only ten Indigenous curators indeterminately employed by art institutions in Canada. Moreover, the two predominant suggestions they had moving forward were that there was an urgent need for Indigenous curators to have writing/publishing opportunities and also that there needed to be more moments created for Indigenous curators to meet and network. The ICCA was officially incorporated in 2006 as an Indigenous non-profit organization.
Since this time, the ICCA has engaged in a variety of artistic and cultural activities, programming discursive gatherings, festivals and facilitating a variety of opportunities for Indigenous curators and artists. Our primary focus has broadly been the creation of opportunities as well as establishing new frameworks for cultural workers to engage with arts institutions along with supporting spaces for curatorial agency. The collectivity of the ICCA presents itself as part of our growing membership, but the organization itself functions as a non-centralized Indigenous run and led non-profit organization that aims to support and connect Indigenous curators/arts professionals. The ICCA has always had its base of operations within Ontario, members of the staff are located across the country, and the Board of Directors live and work across the globe.
The ICCA’s programming has focused on making connections by working with communities and by producing events that bring together peoples from across the world with unique histories and practices. The ICCA continually re-evaluates the opportunities it is able to provide to its members and what is needed in the sector. Opportunities have taken many forms throughout the years but generally focus on how we are able to help create better spaces for our communities to work and the resources needed to help build professional careers. Our primary activity has been through the facilitation of gatherings which take the form of interdisciplinary conferences and events that bring together both Indigenous and non-Indigenous arts professionals. In these gatherings, members present their research and projects, share ideas, build broader networks and long lasting connections, develop resources for a more equitable and resilient arts sector, and celebrate the incredible work we do. Gathering is essential to what we do.
In 2018, the ICCA received its first operating grant from the Canada Council, substantially increasing the organization’s capacity and aiding in the hiring of key staff positions to implement the recently approved strategic plan, which will see the ICCA grow substantially. Since the first conversations in 2005, the ICCA has consistently grown and shifted, but has always and will always work to support Indigenous curators by meeting communities where they are and providing moments for people to come together to discuss an ever changing landscape of Indigenous curatorial practices.