Jon Tupper, director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, stands next to an Emily Carr original work displayed at the gallery on Moss Street. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

MONDAY FEATURE – Inspiration for artists comes in various forms: Art Gallery director

Responding to social issues such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report critical

The visual arts community has always scrambled for funding in Canada, but it certainly isn’t lacking for inspiration.

It’s much the same in the microcosm of Greater Victoria, where artists making art happens in virtually every neighbourhood, every day. The beauty of the region and the telling of stories through visual mediums continues to inspire works by local artists.

Jon Tupper, director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, points out that one of the key influencers on the arts and cultural actions of Canadians in the past few years has been the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

“It seems like community and society has really embraced that change and really in a more serious way than I’ve ever seen before,” he says. “And probably more serious than governments, cultural organizations have really stepped up to the plate and are really changing a lot in terms of being more open to Indigenous arts and culture.”

Indigenous arts have for some time been a staple of exhibitions at the AGGV. But the findings of the TRC have prompted a more critical look at how aboriginal peoples have suffered in this country, and using art to illustrate that pain.

“Sometimes it’s uncomfortable for the community to face these issues, but we have to do it, and we have to lay bare that sometimes unpleasant side of our society,” Tupper says. “We can do that and it pisses people off, but we need to do it … that’s our job in arts and culture; those big issues, and some of them are so big that no one organization can take it on, so we all nibble away at it.”

He guardedly says too much dependency on admission revenues is not a good thing for any cultural organization, as it can put pressure on to present less challenging programs.

“We have an important social role to play in our community,” he says, noting that it’s critical for galleries, for example, to respond to things like the TRC report.

Art galleries such as Alcheringa, Out of the Mist and Eagle Feather specialize in aboriginal art, but the broader arts community, including many local galleries and shows, continues to further embrace the exploration of Indigenous culture and history as a storytelling medium.

editor@mondaymag.com

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