Incorporated in 2006

History of the ICCA

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.

In 2020, the ICCA’s members approved changing the organization’s name from Aboriginal Curatorial Collective to Indigenous Curatorial Collective while the French version of the name remains the same as Collectif des commissaires autochtones.

Beyond Space: A Gathering on Care in Strange Times
Beyond Space was the ICCA’s first digital gathering that took place in the fall of 2020, it responded to the ICCA theme of the year: Care. The gathering spoke to how the mutual support, love and tender acts of care remain tools and weapons of resistance to the colonial system. Care will not be co opted and it’s a necessity to acknowledge the roots of this spiderweb of support. We need to give credit to the Black author Audre Lorde who discussed the concept of self-care and community care decades ago. Lorde’s words of wisdom focus on care as acts of survival and armors of protection for the next BIPOC generations: “As we arm ourselves with ourselves and each other, we can stand toe to toe inside that rigorous loving and begin to speak the impossible – or what has always seemed like the impossible – to one another.” Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, and Black communities share a collective history of resistance and love and it is important to acknowledge these relationships as Audre Lorde and many other artists discussed in their work. We need to remember that we deserve to be cared for in a world that erases our existences and histories. The intersections between taking care of our bodies, mind, and soul, as well as our loved ones in spaces where white supremacy doesn’t offer respite for BIPOC art creatives, even in times of pandemic, is an everyday struggle.

D’horizons et d’estuaires : entre mémoires et créations autochtones 
D’horizons et d’estuaires is a collection of essays bringing together the voices of 16 Francophone and Anglophone Indigenous artists, curators, art historians and cultural workers, working in the territories that we call Quebec. Following on from exhibitions, performances, artist residencies and discussions that took place during the Indigenous Curatorial Collective’s Tiohtià: ke Project (2017-2019), these texts honor the relationships and kinships that are at the heart of these visual arts practices.

The Knowledge Within Us 
The Knowledge Within Us is an education initiative of the ICCA and is a project that seeks to deepen our exploration of what education means to us as an organization, what knowledge means to us and how we can create outputs that honor diverse relationships to these topics. This project helped us shape our Education Mandate and marks the beginning of an evolving commitment to provide spaces for knowledge sharing rooted in who we are and who we serve.

Community Cares
Stemming from a project titled
Curating Care, the ICCA worked actively to support Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Curating Care provided honorariums to Indigenous peoples who submitted a 2-minute video outlining who they are, what they do, and how they integrate care into their work. Community Cares was initiated as a result of the Canada Council for the Arts taking notice of Curating Care, and requesting our help to distribute emergency relief funds to Indigenous communities. Throughout the pandemic, the ICCA was able to distribute just over $450,000 to Indigenous individuals.

The Tiohtiá:ke [joh-ja-ghay] project
The title, Tiohtiá:ke, is the Kanien’ké:ha (Mohawk) name for the City of Montréal, which translates as “where nations divide”. This project was a two-year series of activations within Montréal to uphold and highlight the work of Indigenous arts communities in Quebec who are often excluded from national Indigenous narratives.

Issues within the arts ecology of Montréal and Québec were brought to the ICCA’s attention. Over two years, ICCA representatives reviewed and evaluated the Montréal art scene looking for areas that can be addressed and where Indigenous space can be claimed. In May 2017, ICCA representatives attended the Provincial Summit for Indigenous Artists hosted by Ondinnok in Montréal. This event raised awareness of the major disparities within Québec culture and the lack of awareness of and sensitivity to Indigenous issues. In response to the issues in Québec, the ICCA has undertaken the Tiohtiá:ke project. The title, Tiohtiá:ke, is the Kanien’ké:ha (Mohawk) name for the City of Montréal, which translates as “where nations divide.” This project is a two-year series of activations within Montréal to establish best practices through action.

Within the Tiohtiá:ke project’s scope, the ICCA met with many galleries and organizations across Montréal to discuss Indigenous art in Quebec. These discussions led to the creation of an Advisory Committee for the Tiohtià:ke Project, formed of four Indigenous artists and curators. The ICCA entered into partnership with BACA (Biennale d’art contemporain autochtone – Contemporary Native Art Biennial) to hire Niki Little and Becca Taylor as co-curators for the 4th edition of BACA (2018) through a 8-month residency in Tiohtiá:ke. The co-curators brought together the artistic production of forty Indigenous women- identified, whether they identify as female, non-binary, queer or two-spirit from many communities across Turtle Island under the title nichiwamiskwém | nimidet | my sister | ma sœur in five locations: Art Mûr, Stewart Hall Art Gallery, La Guilde 1906, Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke and Musée McCord.