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New curator at Thunder Bay Art Gallery hopes to build on changing arts scene

Nov 15, 2020 05:40AM ● By Editor
Penelope Smart is the new curator at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Photo: LinkedIn

By Jeff Walters of CBC Thunder Bay - November 14, 2020

The new curator of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery hopes to capitalize on the city's changing arts scene, and the opportunity to learn about northwestern Ontario as she plans how to set up the gallery's collection for the years to come.

Penelope Smart, who started her work at the gallery less than two weeks ago, said she gets a genuine sense the people who work at the gallery respect art and are "wanting to do right by art and the region."

The gallery's focus, she said, is on contemporary Indigenous art.

Smart is originally from Red Lake, but has worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario, as well as at other galleries in Toronto and St. John's, Newfoundland.

"Part of the reason why I came is because the people I've been talking to are really excited about it, and see the city changing, and see it as a place of exciting opportunity and close knit connection." 

"I see it as an incredible time to be working with artists and the people who make it, and the places it comes from in northwestern Ontario with so much positive opportunity and changes coming to the gallery."

Smart said the fact the gallery will move into a new location on the waterfront, was also a factor in taking the position.

"To be part of something, to be able to have kind of a say in shaping a new story of art in the region I grew up in. That's so exciting to me."

"The opportunity to collectively, as a gallery, and more largely as a community, to build something new together, I think that what I'm hearing again from people who live here, it's time to celebrate and write new stories about art, primarily for contemporary Indigenous art."

Smart said while opening up the new space will be exciting, she is aware it will also come with many challenges, and will not be an easy feat.

"To be part of that, the transition in a place that's familiar to me, but as a curator to be part of writing a new story and personally be able to question some old stories that I have of my home region, and what I grew up with, you don't always get an opportunity to build something from the ground up, in the place where I grew up."

To read the original story and see related reporting, follow this link to the CBC News - Thunder Bay website.