Q

Why we need Black and Indigenous leadership at Canada's top museums now more than ever

Artist and activist Syrus Marcus Ware and CBC Arts host Sean O'Neill join q's Tom Power to discuss the actions Canadian arts institutions need to take to achieve racial equity and representation.
Syrus Marcus Ware is an artist and activist. Sean O'Neill is the host and executive producer of the CBC Arts show, In The Making. They joined q's Tom Power to discuss the actions Canadian arts institutions need to take to achieve racial equity and representation. (Jalani Morgan, Andrew Querner)
Listen13:59

If you scrolled through Instagram or Twitter on June 2, you may have noticed that instead of the usual photos of brunch and pets, your feeds were filled with images of black squares.

It was a social media campaign called #BlackOutTuesday and the goal was to rally people against anti-Black racism.

You may have also noticed that companies and organizations — like museums and art galleries — were sharing black squares as well, with captions expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

But the comments under some of those black squares tell a whole other story.

Lately there's been a groundswell of people in the arts speaking up about anti-Black racism at arts organizations, and a lack of racial diversity among the leadership at Canada's top museums: the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Syrus Marcus Ware and Sean O'Neill are two of those people calling for urgent action.

Ware is a visual artist, activist and a core member of Black Lives Matter Toronto. O'Neill is the host and executive producer of the CBC Arts show, In The Making.

They joined q's Tom Power to discuss their personal experiences of working at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Ware was employed there for 13 years and O'Neill for 10), the barriers that exist for BIPOC artists and arts workers in this country, and why Canadian arts institutions still have a long way to go when it comes to equity and representation.

Stephan Jost, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario, provided CBC with the following statement:

"What Syrus experienced is unacceptable. The AGO failed to meet our own standard for a work environment where everyone feels safe and where they can be their true self. It's clear that more learning and positive action by our employees and volunteers needs to happen. I am committed to leading these changes. I want to acknowledge the important contributions that both Syrus and Sean made to the AGO's public programs. The AGO and our community are a better place for their work."


Click the 'Listen' link near the top of this page to hear the full conversation with Syrus Marcus Ware and Sean O'Neill.

Produced by Cora Nijhawan

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