A Letter From Executive Director Kegan McFadden
The past few weeks have been a period of listening for me. Until now I have chosen not to make a broader public statement in order to leave room for the community to voice their concerns with Open Space. As I continue to listen, I also realize that to remain silent out of respect for our community may be taken as complicity in an erasure of Indigenous agency, which is in no way my intention.
The main concern addressed to me has to do with my decision to change the title of the Aboriginal Curator at Open Space. I now realize it is not my place to guide a conversation informed by questions of agency but rather to listen to, and to make space for, the knowledge that comes with lived experience. I value the opportunity to continue to learn from my colleagues with such experience. I apologize for not hearing my friends and colleagues when they advised keeping an Indigenous designation in the job title. I apologize to the staff, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, for not paying attention when they courageously told me that the practice of naming, who is taking up space and how they are doing so, fosters community in the face of white supremacy. I recognize my failure to take seriously the advice of the staff might result in a loss of faith in my leadership, and for that I am truly sorry.
I understand it is not my place to decide what significance names and titles play in these institutional roles when I have not lived through, nor experienced the detrimental effects of, systemic racism. Individuals who have been harmed by, and remain vulnerable to, systemic racism should be able to openly determine the terms of this discussion and the ways in which these mistakes are addressed with sensitivity and culpability. I want to be part of a constructive dialogue with our community; one that is informed by Indigenous and racialized artists, curators, researchers, theorists, and writers. I regret that I fell short here, and that is my mistake to learn from. As an ally it is my place to listen when mistakes are pointed out, to provide space, and to be present; I am here, I am listening, and I am committing to continuing this work.
There is a solid foundation at Open Space—one that will grow stronger because of our community, our readiness to mobilize, and our work towards anti-oppression. I am excited, humbled, and grateful to be new to these territories and recently appointed as executive director of Open Space, and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to provide support, when appropriate, in facilitating these crucial dialogues, such as the importance of naming in relation to specific positions within artist-run culture. I recognize the privilege of being in this role, and the responsibility I have to challenge colonialism, racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and ablelism in it.
I am committed to working with the Board of Directors, the staff, the membership, and the community to ensure that Open Space is the critical, sustainable, and responsive artist-run centre we all expect it to be.
Links to the published information surrounding the community discourse arising from the Letter of Resignation by Open Space Aboriginal Curator France Trépanier:
Letter of Resignation by Aboriginal Curator France Trépanier
Call to Boycott Open Space Arts Society’s Call for ‘Curator of Exhibitions’ from the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective/Collectif des commissaires autochtones
Letter of Response from the Open Space Board of Directors ...