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Gardiner Museum welcomes first curator of Indigenous ceramics

The Gardiner Museum is about to undergo a massive transformation, and the new space will have a greater focus on Indigenous art.

The downtown Toronto museum says its new, ground floor Indigenous gallery will be guided by the principles of access, connectivity and Indigeneity. 

Franchesca Hebert-Spence, the museum’s first curator of Indigenous ceramics, will oversee the development of the new space and lead the stewardship of Indigenous collections at the museum.

“I majored in ceramics and it’s something that I’ve been really passionate about,” Hebert-Spence said. She says it was the community aspect that really drew her to the art.

The gallery will feature work from local regions, including historical and contemporary pieces. 

“There’s been an uptick in beadwork and craft based customary production within Indigenous art,” she said. “I am excited to engage critically with artists using clay and to present a snippet of that within the permanent galleries.”

The Indigenous gallery space is being designed by architect Chris Cornelius of studio:indigenous, in consultation with the Gardiner’s Indigenous Advisory Circle: Mary Anne Barkhouse, Kent Monkman, Andre Morrisseau, Duke Redbird, and Tekaronhiáhkhwa / Santee Smith.

“For a really long time we’ve had narratives superimposed on Indigenous cultural production by folks who aren’t Indigenous,” Hebert-Spence said.

“Presenting Indigenous works within galleries through an Indigenous lens is incredibly important, in terms of visual and cultural sovereignty.”

Construction will start in July, and the museum will be closed for four months. It will partly re-open in October, with the full renovation set to be complete in fall 2025.

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