The National Gallery of Canada is home to a rich contemporary Indigenous international art collection, as well as important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian and European Art from the 14th to 21st centuries. (Photo by Christine Mastroianni)
Jocelyn Piirainen, from Cambridge Bay, will help the gallery curate its Indigenous and Inuit art collection
Jocelyn Piirainen is bringing an Inuk voice to the way the National Gallery of Canada acquires and exhibits Inuit and Indigenous artwork.
The arts scholar and former Cambridge Bay resident was appointed in early November to the role of associate curator for the gallery.
Piirainen brings experience from her previous role as associate curator of Inuit art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Qaumajuq museum, which she has held since March 2019. Qaumajuq is a collection of almost 14,000 contemporary Inuit art pieces, making up the largest collection of its kind in the world.
Curators organize and set up exhibits, said Piirainen in an interview from her home in Winnipeg.
“The curator is really there to allow artists to tell their stories,” she said.
“If there’s a specific carving that has a story or legend associated with it, you know, you want to tell the public about it.”
Piirainen joins the national gallery’s recently formed Indigenous Ways and Decolonization department. It has a mandate to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists, curators and scholars.
In an email, Michelle LaVallee, director of the department of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization, recognized Piirainen’s skill as a collaborator in her work with arts and culture professionals and Indigenous communities to highlight Inuit artistic and cultural practices.
“I am excited about her lived and professional experience as an Inuk curator which she brings to the national gallery,” she said.
Piirainen is joining the gallery as some controversial changes are taking place there. The Globe and Mail and other national media reported last month the departure of four curators from the gallery’s Indigenous Ways and Decolonization department. A former senior curator, Greg A. Hill, tweeted he was fired because he disagreed with the “colonial and anti-Indigenous ways” the department was being run, the Globe reported.
Piirainen said the Canadian art world needs more Inuit curators and art professionals. She credits a government-funding initiative, called Inuit Futures, for leading the way in that respect.
Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq Project supports Inuit and Inuvialuit by giving them access to the training, mentorship and professional opportunities necessary to find success in the arts industry.
Piirainen was invited to be a mentor in the Inuit Futures program in 2019, where she was paired with mixed-media artist Aghalingiak (Zoe Ohokannoak). Aghalingiak, who identifies as they/them, is in their fifth year of study of fine arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Aghalingiak said in an interview that being a participant in the Inuit Futures program as a research intern and mentee has been both challenging and a confidence boost, accelerating their development as an artist.
In April 2022, they curated their first exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Qaumajuq Museum under the mentorship of Piirainen. The exhibition is called Kakiniit Hivonighijotaa: Inuit Embodied Practices & Meanings.
“I didn’t think that I would ever be curating exhibitions at this point,” Aghalingiak said, reflecting on their recent solo exhibition and their experience with Inuit Futures.
As Piirainen prepares to move to Ottawa in January, she acknowledges that although this appointment provides an opportunity to be part of the national gallery’s efforts to ensure Inuit art and culture are appropriately represented, her hiring is not a solution in and of itself.
“There is also a lot of pressure that comes to that, to be kind of representing all Inuit, but I am aware that I can’t do that either,” she said.
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Megadeth Album ‘The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead!’ Draws Lawsuit Over Cover Art
The cover of heavy metal band Megadeth’s latest album The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead! has drawn a lawsuit from an artist who says he hasn’t received pay or credit for his work.
New York-based illustrator and designer Brent Elliott White says he has “created artwork and characters over time for Megadeth that have become an integral part of the band’s identity” and was contacted about this album in early 2020. They didn’t sign a written contract at the time, according to the complaint, and the concept phase involved multiple revisions and edits and hundreds of hours of work.
By April 2021 the band had chosen a concept for the cover for The Sick, The Dying…And the Dead! and asked White to create art for an EP release. More than a year later, in June 2022, White says the band’s manager Bob Johnsen asked him for additional renderings of the artwork for stage decorations for an upcoming tour. That’s when White sent a text to Johnsen noting that he didn’t have a contract and hadn’t been paid, saying, “I know album release time is hectic but I have to mention that any send off, including album art, is contingent on compensation and contract. So we’re going to have to sort that out soon.”
According to the complaint, which is embedded below, Johnson’s response was that “‘No one intended to not have this papered by now’ and he ‘would bring it up the right way.’”
The next day the first single dropped, and White says the art was featured in Rolling Stone but he wasn’t credited. So, the artist contacted Universal Music Group, explained the situation and said that without an agreement to transfer rights he was still the owner of the copyright.
When the album was released in Sept. 2022, they still hadn’t agreed on a price. White says the album is a hit (“We’ll Be Back” was nominated for a Grammy for best metal performance), YouTube videos showing the work have been viewed millions of times, and vendors are charging $100-$600 for merchandise featuring his art because defendants licensed the work to third parties without permission.
He’s suing Megadeth, UMG and others for copyright infringement and is asserting multiple claims under New York’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which requires a written contract for work valued at $800 or more, sets standards for the timing of payment and prohibits other behavior like dropping pay rates and retaliation.
White is asking the court for an injunction that would stop Megadeth and UMG from using the artwork, and is seeking damages and disgorgement of profits.
UMG and a representative for the band have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Registration is open for Art in a Just Recovery workshop
Guelph-based, community-engaged arts organization, Art Not Shame and the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition has teamed up to bring the folks of Guelph together with a city-wide guided art making workshop called Art in a Just Recovery.
Art in a Just Recovery focuses on exploring community care in the context of our ongoing pandemic recovery in Guelph. Over the course of eight weeks, participants will create individual art pieces and explore ideas through a series of online and in-person workshops, led by community engaged artist Melanie Schambach and an amazing team of Art Buddies. Each individual art piece will contribute to a large-scale digital mural.
“At this point in our ongoing recovery from the pandemic, the importance of having accessible opportunities to connect with community members across Guelph’s neighbourhoods is necessary. Art in a Just Recovery centres art-making in a way that individually considers its participants and aims to foster healing, growth, vulnerability, and shared strength in community.” says Maeve Hind, project manager for Art in a Just Recovery.
“The last few years have been difficult for our Neighbourhood Groups, with many of them halting programs that foster social connection and community belonging. We hope that Art in a Just Recovery will play an active role in reanimating Neighbourhood Groups and providing more creative outlets for self-expression and community connection as we move toward pandemic recovery,” says Nasra Hussein, health equity lead for Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition.
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