MFA Lindsay Delaronde named Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence

The city’s visual arts scene became even more inclusive with the March 8 news that Lindsay Delaronde has been named Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence.

Visual Arts alumna Lindsay Delaronde (photo: PRZ)

Delaronde, an Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, is also a multi‐disciplinary Visual Arts MFA alumna (2010) and has been a professional practicing artist for the past five years. In 2015, she was one of three artists-in-residence at the Royal BC Museum (along with fellow Visual Arts alumnus Gareth Gaudin); her work was in the spotlight with her 2016-17 exhibit In Defiance at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, and she was also a featured speaker at UVic’s Diversity Research Forum in January 2017.

“I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she says. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

Delaronde began making art at a young age, practicing traditional forms of art making such as beadwork and cultural crafts. She began her journey to become a professional artist by travelling to the West Coast and obtaining her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design.

She creates work directly related to being an Indigenous woman in contemporary mainstream society, and has worked in mediums ranging from printmaking (including silkscreen printing and photos transfers) to painting, drawing and video — all with the motivation to expand the evolution of Indigenous peoples and their histories. Her intention is to construct Indigenous perspectives within Western society to bring forth truth and reconciliation through the act of creation and visual understanding.

For her one-year term as Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde will work with the community and City staff to produce a range of artistic works; she will also have an opportunity to create collaborative artwork with the City’s Artist in Residence, Luke Ramsey, who was appointed in fall 2016. She will work 20 hours per week as an independent contractor (March 2017 to March 2018) for a total fee of $42,000, funded by the City’s Art in Public Places Reserve Fund. Artwork materials, fabrication and installation may be funded by a capital project’s budget, with up to $30,000 from the Art in Public Places Reserve Fund.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

“My goal and my purpose for the residency is really to pave the way for young emerging indigenous artists and youth, and help them understand that anything is possible,” Delaronde said in this Victoria News interview.  “Everyone can stop and take a look at how art has helped them in their lives or how creativity has help someone through something or see something differently or be inspired by art . . . We all have these experiences so one thing that’s important is really helping people to personalize their own relationship to artwork and artwork in the city and what that means.”

One of six artists who applied for the position — which was open to First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists and artist teams working in any artistic discipline who reside in the Capital Region, including the Gulf Islands — submissions were evaluated based on artistic excellence, written interest, and knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritage and legacy of the area. Experience with community engagement and a desire to create artwork for and in the public realm were required.

’Namgis nation chief Rande Cook — a member of the City’s Art in Public Places Committee, and the current Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest for the department of Visual Arts — feels Delaronde is a good fit for what the City of Victoria has declared the Year of Reconciliation. “At a time where love, respect, unity and art come together, let’s all follow in the path as Lindsay paints and creates towards a brighter future,” he says. “Reconciliation is an act we as people must feel from within before we can dance unified to the heart of Mother Earth.”

Delaronde speaking at the 2017 Diversity Research Forum

Delaronde also recently completed her second Master’s degree at UVic, in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology. As she recounted in this Focus magazine interview, having experienced domestic violence and trauma in her youth, Delaronde has always turned to art-making for solace; realizing how an art practice helped her in her own healing, she has been finding points of cohesion. “As time went on, I was really interested in narrative therapy, person-centred therapy . . .  We don’t heal in isolation. Our worldview is about coming together and doing ceremonies so we could be visible; we could be seen. We could be part of community. The individual healing is the group healing—one is the other.”

She is already planning a multidisciplinary performative piece, titled A CHoRD, to take place at Victoria’s Legislature on June 25, 2017. Co-created with local choreographer Monique Salez  to enact a new accord reflecting the potential for a rallying point between cultures, politics, ages, and herstories, A CHoRD will “appropriate the colonial legislative system to dismantle existing hypocrisies and injustices while proposing new partnerships with an eye toward the potential for a contemporary and inclusive recreation where women’s voices, bodies and politics are reclaimed.”

Street art performance by Lindsay Delaronde (photo: Michael Tessel)

Want to get involved? Performers and activated audience members are needed, and you can find out more at an informational meet & greet, 3 to 5pm Sunday, March 19, at Raino Dance, 715 Yates (3rd floor).

You can also see footage of Delaronde’s 2015 Unceded Voices interactive street art performance piece here. “I dressed Iroquois regalia approaching local Montrealers and asking if they knew what First Nations territory they were on?” she said at the time. “What do they know of Kahnawake and Mohawk people? Interesting and upsetting responses in relation the lack of knowledge people have. So I did an acknowledgment of territory and educated them on who we are as Onkwehonwe people.”

We’ll  be excited to see the impact — both immediate and long-term — this extraordinary Fine Arts graduate has on Victoria during her year of residency.

We will need fine arts graduates in a post-COVID-19 world

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted during his daily pandemic briefing on April 17, “Since the beginning of the current crisis, artists have been bringing comfort, laughs and happiness into our lives.” He’s right: the arts are important, particularly during a pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has proven the arts are a social necessity. Creativity is always an assertion of hope​.

But how and where are artists trained? In addition to exposure to the arts in elementary and secondary schools, the fine arts degree programs offered by many postsecondary institutions across Canada are crucial to the development of the next generation of artistic leaders.

Art History & Visual Studies student Ashley Riddett curated a community COVID exhibit both online & at Oak Bay’s Gage Gallery in June

Incubators for future creative leaders

A fine arts education—be it in music, theatre, dance, creative writing, visual arts or art history and visual studies—is not always an easy sell. The social utility and financial feasibility of the arts are often underrated. This is an erroneous view at best, given the more than 700,000 jobs and nearly $60-billion direct economic impact the cultural industries have in Canada.

As they write novels, sculpt, create digital art or compose music, our students are also learning transferrable skills that are essential for countering situations defined by uncertainty. Innovation and adaptability are an essential component of any fine arts education. The arts community was one of the first to pivot online after the sweeping cancellations of performances, concerts, readings, exhibits and arts-related events and conferences.

Here in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria, we teach our students to think critically and creatively, to problem-solve and adjust to quickly changing circumstances—often with an audience watching. When you are performing in a play and the sound system suddenly cuts out or you forget your next line, you have to think on your feet. You have to perform under pressure. The show must, of course, go on.

With the theatres closed due to COVID, alumni group Theatre SKAM project took live theatre to the streets with a mix of students & alumni (Photo: Samantha Duerksen)

Learning how to swiftly adjust

The abrupt end of the term meant most students could not complete their creative projects as originally planned. I was delighted—though not surprised—to see how our graduating students responded to the pandemic by recording their recitals or shifting exhibitions online. Some assisted in repurposing equipment in our buildings, using sewing machines to make face masks and 3D printers to contribute to UVic’s face shield initiative.

Organizations and corporations are built on a combination of individual achievement and teamwork. Studying the piano or any other instrument requires dedication and self-discipline; playing in an orchestra, jazz ensemble or singing in a choir develops attentiveness to others around you, while providing the kind of satisfaction that only comes from collective accomplishments. To write a poem is to distill emotion and ideas; it’s an art form where precision is demanded and the power of words heeded—excellent training for careers requiring meticulous and thoughtfully written communication.

With his graduation recital cancelled, Masters of Music candidate Jorge Eduardo Flores Carrizales used the School of Music’s facilities to record his performance for online viewing

Creative entrepreneurs

Will there be jobs for fine arts students when they graduate? Maybe. This is the same answer I offered before the pandemic. Some of our graduates will enter the arts sector while others will pursue other options. All, however, will be well-positioned thanks to their education in the fine arts, because we train our students to be creative entrepreneurs, to be aware that they need to generate their own opportunities. We teach the importance of thinking creatively for the moment we are in … and the moments yet to come.

I often muse that that the Faculty of Fine Arts should really be called the Faculty of Social Engagement. As we move forward, artists will continue to respond to social calamity as they have for millennia: their performances, paintings, movies, stories and curatorial activities will invite us to consider the significance of the pandemic, both personally and communally. Ideas are already percolating in the imaginations of many Fine Arts students at my university.

The community-engaged and Indigenous-related research and creative activities that many students in fine arts are currently pursuing promises to build intercultural alliances and to help decolonize academic institutions through the arts. They will also foreground the impact of the pandemic across diverse populations while using the arts to dismantle systemic racism.

When the outbreak abruptly cancelled Victoria’s UNO Festival, our Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Lindsay Delaronde adapted her live performance for a livestream audience instead

Students are our future

Fine arts graduates will not only teach us new ways to create art online, but their design capabilities and inventiveness will help us explore the potential of our increased social reliance on interactive technologies. Will online streaming of performances, concerts and gallery exhibits become the new normal? It’s too early to say, but the COVID-19 generation of artists will be well prepared to do so.

As we wait to see what September brings for a postsecondary fine arts education (will we be leading online orchestras or creating new Zoom plays?), we will also have to wait for today’s students to show us what artistic ingenuity truly looks like in a post-COVID-19 world.

Acting Dean Allana Lindgren

I am confident that fine arts schools across the country will remain vital incubators for our future creative leaders within the arts community and beyond.

—Allana Lindgren

Allana Lindgren is the acting dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria. This opinion piece originally ran in University Affairs magazine on July 9, 2020.