Indigenous art lines walls of Government House in 'Reclamation' gallery

Colonial art was taken off the walls at Government House this week and replaced with the works of Indigenous art from Newfoundland and Labrador artists.

Works could stay up for incoming Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote

Jerry Evans stood between two white colonial-style pillars inside the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and was surrounded by Indigenous art.

Looking around at the gallery he curated in the seat of the province's colonial history, the title of the gallery was on his mind.

"Reclamation, it states we're taking something back," Evans said. "This action, this artistic statement that's taking place here, represents a larger conversation that's ongoing."

Jerry Evans waits in a procession to shake hands with the Lieutenant Governor at Government House, where Evans curated a gallery of Indigenous Art. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Throughout April, Eastern Edge Gallery has been celebrating Indigenous culture and identity with art-themed events.

This week, the majority of permanent artworks in Government House were removed from the walls and replaced by works representing each Indigenous group in the province.

The walls were lined with bright, colourful pieces in various mediums — paint, textile, sculpture and more.

A massive portrait of the Queen hangs next to a piece by Jonathan House. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The exhibit was opened on Friday with a ceremony with Lt.-Governor Frank Fagan, his last official event before Judy Foote takes over the post.

There were rumours circulating around the room that the works will stay up until Foote moves in next month.

For Christopher Sheppard, executive director of the St. John's Native Friendship Centre, the gallery represents the changing tides in society.

Government House was packed on Friday as a ceremony kicked off an art gallery that will run throughout the weekend. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Relationships are forming and building strength, he said, between "western institutions" and the Indigenous art community.

Sheppard saw the gallery as a way to cut through the remaining tensions and showcase the work that is being done.

"Reconciliation is a complicated topic, period. I think a lot of people don't know how to engage in reconciliation and art is a medium that everyone understands."

Indigenous art from all Indigenous groups in the province was represented in Reclamation, a gallery curated by Jerry Evans. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

For Evans, a renowned artist in the province and beyond, it was a way to show the work being done in Indigenous communities, and to inspire others.

"As artists, it's our responsibility with our voices that we can help build people up to instill esteem and pride in who we are as First Peoples of this land, of this place."

The gallery will remain open through the weekend, with public tours starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.