OCAD U Celebrates National Indigenous History Month with Jordan Bennett

Toronto, June 13, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As part of ArtWorxTO and coinciding with National Indigenous History Month, a large-scale outdoor mural by Mi’kmaq visual artist Jordan Bennett will be unveiled on June 15 at 3 p.m. on the south wall of OCAD University’s iconic building at 100 McCaul St. in Toronto, Ontario.

pi’tawita’iek: we go up river deepens a vital conversation about Indigenous Peoples’ survivance and joy. Its bright colours within bold, elegant forms reference the atmosphere and Earth, helping to complicate and humanize our understanding of Indigenous Peoples, demonstrating that they are ancestrally grounded and continuously evolving,” explains the mural’s curator Lisa Deanne Smith who is also curator at OCAD U’s Onsite Gallery.

Bennett is from Stephenville Crossing, Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland) in Canada. His ongoing practice utilizes painting, sculpture, video, installation and sound to explore land, language, the act of visiting, familial histories and challenging colonial perceptions of Indigenous histories and presence with a focus on exploring Mi’kmaq and Beothuk visual culture of Ktaqamkuk. 

“Being a visitor to this territory, I acknowledge that these designs are not of this particular land, yet they have been and continue to be present here since time immemorial through nation-to-nation trade, visiting and gathering in the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat, says Bennett. “This new work will be a growing extension of Indigenous presence and story, acting as an invitation to gather in a safe, bright space and further this tradition of nation-to-nation relationships.”

The mural, which is approximately is 144’ wide by 48’ high, is a partnership project of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021–2022, a year-long celebration of art projects that reflects Toronto’s diversity and creates more opportunities for the public to engage with art in their everyday lives.

Because so much of Bennett’s work challenges colonial perceptions of Indigenous histories and presence and lends itself to discussions regarding contemporary Indigenous realities within urban and rural communities, his visit will be a powerful time of contemplation during National Indigenous History Month at OCAD U. The University continues to make progress decolonizing its institution and in fostering a community that recognizes and respects Indigenous art, histories, culture, teachings and ways of knowing.

“By seeking to understand Indigenous stories and traditional knowledge systems through art, each of us can take another step on the journey towards greater reconciliation and understanding,” says OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano.

New solo exhibition by Bennett also opens on June 15

June 15 also marks the opening of Bennett’s solo exhibition, Souvenir, at OCAD U’s Onsite Gallery. This exhibition brings together new site-specific works by Bennett that celebrate the design, symbolism and history of the intricate art form of quillwork of the Mi’kmaq culture. 

Ryan Rice, curator of Souvenir, highlights the intricacies within Bennett’s relationships with the legacy of Mi’kmaq visual and material culture: “The customary and innovative practices and complex technologies Bennett responds to are those employed by generations of Mi’kmaq artists, the majority women, who have addressed and enhanced their claimed histories, storied through the agency of art and design.”

“Bennett is committed to rematriate the Mi’kmaq visual language legacy and its processes in order for the medium to be received, endured and continued to map distinction to a culture, ecology and geography,” says Rice who is also Onsite Gallery’s Curator of Indigenous Art and Associate Dean of OCAD U’s Faculty of Arts and Science.

The exhibition opens on June 15 at 5 p.m. and will be on display until December 10, 2022 at Onsite Gallery, 199 Richmond St. W. in downtown Toronto in Ontario. Admission to the exhibition is free.

Background on Jordan Bennett

In the past 10 years Jordan has participated in over 75 group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally in venues such as the Smithsonian-National Museum of the American Indian, New York City; MAC-VAL, Paris; The Museum of Art and Design, New York City; Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Project Space Gallery, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia; The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, The Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Power Plant, Toronto; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; and was one of two artists to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the 2015 Venice Biennial at Galleria Ca’Rezzonico as part of the official collateral events.  

He is the recipient of several awards and honours most notably one of the 2020 winners of the Sobey Art Award, longlisted for the 2018, 2016 and 2015 Sobey Art Award. He was also the recipient of the Hnatyshan Foundation REVEAL award and 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s Artist of the Year. 

Learn more about Jordan Bennett’s visit to OCAD U.

About OCAD University (OCAD U):

OCAD University is Canada’s largest and oldest art and design university. We’re a world-famous hub for art, design, digital media, research, innovation and creativity. Our students benefit from hands-on studio learning in small classrooms and have access to state-of-the-art shops and studios for both traditional and digital creation. Alongside a diverse and supportive team of instructors and peers, our students gain employable skills. Our graduates work in different sectors such as urban planning, environmental design, gaming, film, animation, publishing, illustration, graphic design, visual arts and arts administration.

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