The Woodland Cultural Centre is a First Nations educational and cultural centre. It was established in 1972 to protect, promote, interpret, and present the history, language, intellect and cultural heritage of the Anishinaabe and Onkwehon:we. This mandate is from our member Nations: Wahta Mohawks, Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
The Woodland Cultural Centre will demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in the practice, presentation, interpretation and collection of resources in Education; Museology; Arts; Language and Cultural Heritage in order to foster an appreciation of the intellect and promote an accurate image of First Nations in Canada and abroad.
The Woodland Cultural Centre is a cultural educational organization which fosters the historical and contemporary cultures of First Nations. To this end the Centre promotes a positive and progressive image, nationally and internationally by depicting the versatility, distinctiveness and the aesthetic values of contemporary First Nations artists. As well the Centre serves the general public by bringing the visual and performing arts of First Nations artists to a space which will encourage exploration, dialogue and enjoyment. This will be achieved by providing quality collections, exhibitions, public programs and education. The Centre’s guiding themes for this current year are: Controversy, Creativity and Collisions.
The Woodland Cultural Centre was established in October 1972 under the direction of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians upon the closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. The Centre originally began its focus on collecting research and artifacts to develop its library and museum collections. By 1975, the Centre’s Director Glen Crane found it necessary to include the arts in to the Centre’s yearly programming thus developing Indian Art, an annual juried art exhibition the Centre still holds to this day albeit the title has been changed to First Nations Art. Over the years, the programming and support communities have changed in large part due to the social-political climate of the times. Originally there were approximately 9 member communities and currently we have 3 member communities. This is in response in large part to the geographic distances and the need from some of the communities to develop their own cultural centre to ensure the survival of their distinctive languages. A driving force behind the changes to the Centre’s programming during the 1980s and 1990s was Tom Hill as the Museum Director. Today, the artistic staff is responding to the needs and diversity of our First Nations artists. Many of today’s artists are studying art at a post-secondary institution and being exposed to the mainstream art community, thus influencing the medium(s) in which they work. The Centre’s collection has developed throughout the years with much of the art being acquired through gallery visits, First Nations Art submissions, and purchasing art displayed from one of our exhibitions. The Centre also works closely with the performing artists in our community by either presenting the artists in our venue as part of our public programming, or partnering with the performing artists on a collaborative project that assist both our programming and development of artists.
Some examples of the Centre’s main accomplishments are: our annual juried art exhibition First Nations Art which features First Nations artists from across Canada and the United States both established and emerging artists; Lifeworlds-Artscapes: Contemporary Iroquois Art a multi-disciplinary art exhibition from Iroquoian artists which was a cooperative venture between the Museum der Wletkulturen, Nordamerika Native Museum in Germany and the Woodland Cultural Centre; Kaha:wi a contemporary Aboriginal dance work which was a partnership between choreographer Santee Smith and the Woodland Cultural Centre; Trade Roots: Presenting Aboriginal Arts Conference which brought together Aboriginal artists, arts organizations, funders and experts to discuss the needs and outcomes of Aboriginal Arts in Canada; Arts Access a province-wide community arts project in collaboraton with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Woodland Cultural Centre which brought together artists, galleries and communities creating art around the theme of ‘Home’; and Planet IndigenUs 2009 a co-production with Harbourfront Centre which is the largest festival of multi-disciplinary contemporary and international Indigenous artistic work anywhere.
The size of the Centre’s exhibition area is 11,116.88 square feet and the scope of its collection enables us to serve the varied needs of contemporary artists, curators and audiences, both Native and non-Native in the following ways:
- The introduction of First Nations school age children to the Art Gallery and Museum and in turn, encouraging repeat visits by the family as a whole. The tour program is also available for non-Native participants.
- The Centre promotes the collection of contemporary art as an accessible and free resource. Not only is the collection available for research, all of the related materials are available such as catalogues, artists’ biographies, resource books, and some original works.
- A series of public programs and special events is also available either free of charge or for a nominal fee. One of our roles is to be a catalyst within the First Nations art community by encouraging formal gallery talks and lectures, artist-led workshops with community members to encourage exchanges between the artist and their public.
- Constantly advocating for arts education within the school system both on-reserve and off-reserve. To an extent we have been able to fill this gap through ArtsAccess and GEMfest which encourages principals in local schools to commit one-day of art activity by bringing in local artists and exposing children to the various art disciplines while still relating the art to First Nations culture.
- Partnering with non-Native art and cultural institutions to ensure proper depiction of First Nations art and the inclusion of First Nations art in the mainstream.
- Encouring loans from our contemporary art collection to art institutions across Canada, United States and Europe to ensure that First Nations artists are equally represented.
- The Museum Director and Executive Director also sit on a number of committees within the local community and arts community to advise on First Nations art programming.
- The Executive Director also participates as a member on the Brant Museums and Galleries Association and Southern Ontario Galleries Association where Directors come together to meet monthly and/or every 6 months to dicuss issues affecting galleries as well as encourage partnerships between member galleries.