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Proposal for the Hart House Centennial Commission: Ursula Johnson

Ursula Johnson
In collaboration with Maria Hupfield and Kathryn Walter
(re)al-location: The Festival of Stewards, 2017
Public Art Commission, Partners in Art, Landmarks 2017

For its centennial celebrations in 2019, Hart House commissioned a major, permanent artwork by an Indigenous artist to transform its historic Great Hall. One step towards redressing settler colonial narratives, this permanent commission seeks to acknowledge the history, narratives and people who came before us, honour the land upon which we live and work today, and imagine other possible futures for current and future generations from an Indigenous perspective.

Learn more about Re-Imagining Place: Hart House Centennial Art Commission.

About the Artist
Ursula Johnson is a Mi’kmaw multi-disciplinary artist from Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Born into a family of artists, Johnson’s own work includes performance, sculpture, printmaking, and basket-weaving—a craft for which her great-grandmother Caroline Gould was renowned. Incorporating long-standing Indigenous traditions, Johnson considers the effects of colonialism on the land, including human-animal relations. A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2006, Johnson is the winner of the prestigious 2017 Sobey Art Award, where her large-scale interactive installation Moose Fence was on view at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. In addition to curating a number of shows, including Kloqowej: A 30 Year Retrospective of Caroline Gould at the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax, she frequently speaks in public and community forums on ideas of sustainability, conservation, and cultural responsibilities.

Maria Hupfield is an Anishinaabe-kwe performance artist, sculptor and fine artist from the Wasauksing First Nation. Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Hupfield is known to challenge Euro-centric representations in art institutions, with a particular concern for Indigenous knowledge and inclusion. An activist and musician, Hupfield also co-owns the New York-based Native Art Department International, exhibiting work by Indigenous communities. Her 2017 national touring exhibition The One Who Keeps on Giving was produced by the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto. Additional international exhibitions include the Bronx Museum, New York (2015); Vox Populi, Philadelphia (2015); SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2016); and the Campo Dei Gesuiti, Venice (2015).

Kathryn Walter is a Toronto artist and founder of the studio, company and label FELT. Through FELT, Walter combines visual art and design techniques to create exhibitions, product lines, and installations. She began the company soon after curating a show on felt at the Textile Museum of Canada, wherein she explored the complexities of the material. Walter graduated from Queen’s University in Art History and from Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Fine Arts, receiving her Masters of Fine Arts from Concordia University in 1993. Walter has collaborated with Levitt-Goodman Partners for Native Child and Family Services, Yazdani Studio for The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and Lemay Michaus Architecture for Google Montreal. Her work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York (2011), Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2004) and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (1990).