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'Radical diversity': Hampton makes history at MacKenzie Art Gallery – Regina Leader-Post



John Hampton is “feeling the weight of responsibility” as the first Indigenous director of a major non-Indigenous art institution in Canada.

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John Hampton remembers viewing a landscape painting exhibition during a childhood visit to the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

Nine-year-old Hampton was interested in art and technology and thought he might grow up to be an artist.

The landscape show steered him away from that idea, as his young brain registered a pattern in the dates of paintings from the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s.

“‘Wow, so to be an artist, I’m going to have to be able to paint a landscape better than anyone in history … That doesn’t seem very achievable to me,’” he recalled, laughing.

Kids visiting the gallery today should have a different experience.

“That landscape (painting is) really going to resonate for some people but (not) others; we want to make sure that you can see there’s other ways of doing things for representing the world out there too.”


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*BEST* REGINA, SASK : January 9, 2021  -- John Hampton, the executive director/CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, stands in the gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan. 9, 2021.

BRANDON HARDER/ Regina Leader-Post
John Hampton, the executive director/CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, stands in the gallery in Regina on Jan. 9, 2021. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

Hampton, who grew up in Regina, joined the MAG as director of programs in October 2018.

When former executive director Anthony Kiendl left the MAG, Hampton was named interim executive director in July 2020. Last month, the “interim” was dropped.

Hampton is “very excited” about leading the MAG, but “also feeling the weight of responsibility too.”

He is the first Indigenous director of a major non-Indigenous art institution in Canada, one that has a long legacy in Regina and Saskatchewan.

“There’s a lot of intersecting responsibilities there,” Hampton said in a phone interview.

A main goal “is to try and hold space for the many voices, perspectives, cultures, artists that intersect with this institution,” said Hampton, and “trying to hold space for the Indigenous people of this territory.”

That’s important, “for I’m also a migrant here,” said Hampton, a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

“My homeland is down in the southeastern United States, but my reservation’s in Oklahoma, so I’m a guest on this territory as well. So I don’t have illusions of being representative of Indigenous people here in Treaty 4,” said Hampton.

REGINA, SASK : January 9, 2021  -- John Hampton, the executive director/CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, stands outside the gallery as snow and frost falls from the trees in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan. 9, 2021.

BRANDON HARDER/ Regina Leader-Post
John Hampton stands outside the MacKenzie Art Gallery as snow and frost falls from the trees. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

Hampton and his father, Eber Hampton, are the only two Chickasaw people John knows in Saskatchewan.

The family moved here in 1991 for Eber’s job as president of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, predecessor to the First Nations University.

John’s mother Mary Hampton was a psychology professor at Luther College.


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From childhood, digital art was John Hampton’s passion — it still is. In 2019, with Hampton as director of programs, the MAG launched a Digital Lab with a focus on digital arts.

With two academic parents, Hampton would find 3D animation books at the U of R bookstore. He attended computer camp and learned to program HTML. As a pre-teen, he built websites and did IT support work.

It wasn’t until university that Hampton dove into “capital-A arts classes,” and that was only after dis-enrolling from the now-defunct New Media Campus.

His goal was to be a 3D animator (nano-technologist was his second choice), but the 3D animation and game design courses he was taking made him realize he’d rather focus on conceiving and creating his own stories.

So, Hampton enrolled in an inter-media class at the U of R, a multi-faceted studio art class; he “immediately fell in love” and switched his major.

“In that space, in this inter-media studio, I found a spot where you could just explore an idea and find the best way to try to investigate that in an open-ended way, and that there were no correct answers but it was just a space to search, to have dialogue, and to build on ideas and experience. So I never looked back after that,” said Hampton.

He did veer on that artistic path, though. Working as a curator, first at Neutral Ground Artist Run Centre in Regina, he realized he’d prefer not to create his own art, but facilitate other artists’ work.

He attended the University of Toronto for a master’s degree in curatorial studies. In Toronto, he was the curator-in-residence at the U of T Art Museum and artistic director at another artist-run centre, Trinity Square Video.


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His next job took him to Brandon, Man., where he was executive director of the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

REGINA, SASK :  May 27, 2019  --    New York-based Iranian artist Morehshin Allahyari created the works in She Who Sees the Unknown, a new exhibition curated by the MacKenzie Art Gallery's director of programs John Hampton. Allahyari's work is an ongoing research project into female and gender-non-binary monsters and jinn, through which she explores colonialism, patriarchy and environmental degradation in relation to the Middle East. The exhibition is on view through Aug. 25. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post
John Hampton curated the exhibition She Who Sees the Unknown, featuring works by New York-based Iranian artist Morehshin Allahyari and pictured at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in May 2019. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader-Post

Hampton “saw some really exciting things and potential meaningful work in Brandon that I wanted to come back to do.” But there was another reason for the “Prairie itch” that brought him closer to home.

“There’s a different relationship to community, and specifically to Indigenous communities, that I was experiencing in Toronto that gave me a desire to get back into the Prairies,” said Hampton.

Growing up in Regina, Hampton experienced “two fairly distinct cultural realities,” the “primarily white schools and neighbourhoods” at Argyle Elementary and Campbell Collegiate, and then the cultural spaces outside of school.

“Of course there were Indigenous people in my schools, but that was not the dominant presence. And my mother being white and my father being Chickasaw, it’s something that I didn’t maybe think about too much as a kid. But it just seemed like those were the two worlds that were here; it existed at school and it existed at the powwow or the pipe ceremony and that’s just the way things are.”

A key memory of those two worlds colliding occurred when Hampton was about 15 years old, at the MacKenzie.

It was the opening reception of The Powwow: An Art History, co-curated by Metis artist Bob Boyer and Lee-Ann Martin — the first Indigenous head curator of a mainstream Canadian gallery.

When Hampton attended that event with his family, “that was the very first time that I really recognized the blending of those worlds, of seeing what I could recognize from Indigenous-specific spaces in a non-Indigenous environment … (and) that blending in the audiences there …”


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“For me, culture is the space where we imagine who we can be as a society,” said Hampton.

Through artists and curators sharing their work, and audiences experiencing that work, “we start to come to some shared understanding and agreement about who we are as a society and as people.”

“And that’s been a very active conversation in the world right now and in art communities, and it’s something that … right now is coming with a lot of discomfort for some people,” added Hampton.

“And it’s embracing that discomfort while also seeing the beauty of existence and of our world and our relations with one another and this world we live in.”

The gallery is a place “to make space for these conversations and for the people that are helping us process.”

REGINA, SASK : January 9, 2021  -- John Hampton, the executive director/CEO of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, stands in the gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan. 9, 2021. Behind Hampton is a piece called Untitled #3 by Wanda Koop.

BRANDON HARDER/ Regina Leader-Post
John Hampton stands in front of a piece called Untitled #3 by Wanda Koop. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

For people who feel like they don’t “get” art, Hampton is adamant that the gallery is here for everybody.

“(A person) doesn’t need a specific background in art or a vocabulary in painting. It’s just that the way in which each of us sees this work is the right interpretation for us, for that individual. So everybody coming into the gallery is an expert in their own experience,” said Hampton.

“An art gallery is a little closer to a spiritual space … in that artworks work almost like allegory. That it’s a story being told, it’s an experience that’s being shared that then you need to find your own truth and reaction to it.”

Hampton added, “You’re not going to like everything that you see, and that’s true about the whole world. On Netflix, you’re maybe not going to watch every program and love it, but you’ll hopefully go through and find those pieces that speak to you …”


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What are NFTs? Cryptocurrency technology is driving new digital art craze – CTV News



A new craze is sweeping through the art world, but it’s of solely digital work.

Using blockchain technology — which is what underpins cryptocurrency transactions like Bitcoin — to authenticate who owns the pieces, digital assets known as “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs, are selling for millions.

An NFT is a singular, one-of-a-kind digital token that cannot be interchanged with other tokens – which makes them optimal for buying and selling art or other collectibles as they accrue value independently.

NFTs give a digital certificate of ownership to buyers to prove authentication of both the work and the purchase, but does not give buyers the original file or copyright – which is why NFTs have been labeled as a “bragging rights” purchase.

Canadian Trevor Jones, who lives in Scotland, sold more than $3 million worth of digitally-authenticated versions of his painting “Bitcoin Angel” in just seven minutes.

“It’s crazy how fast this space is moving,” Jones told CTV News. “This is the first time in history that an artist could monetize digital pieces.”

A version of the “nyan cat meme,” where a pixelated cat with the body of a Poptart flies over a rainbow, sold for US$590,000 at auction, and a 10-second video clip by digital artist “Beeple” sold for US$6.6 million.

Canadian musician Grimes recently sold US$6 million dollars worth of NFTs as well.

Even the NBA is getting in on the action – with the biggest transaction to date on Feb. 22, when a user paid US$208,000 for a video of a LeBron James slam dunk.

Auction house Christie’s has recently moved into the digital space, offering a new Beeple piece on the block. NFTs have surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as more and more people purchase items digitally due to lockdowns and stay at home orders.

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Smithers Art Gallery to feature new exhibit – My Bulkley Lakes Now



A new exhibit is being featured at the Smithers Art Gallery.

“Arterial” by Fantastic 5point0 consists of artwork from five artists along the Highway 16 corridor.

The exhibit features Lynn Cociani of Prince Rurpert, Michelle Gazely of Smithers, Mo Hamilton of Prince George, Suzo Hickey of Prince Rupert and Sarah Northcott of Smithers.

According to one of the artists Michelle Gazely, the exhibit is about the connection each of the artists have and the connection of Highway 16 to each other.

Gazely said it was an incredible experience working with different artists.

“It was so wonderful to work with people who are serious about art, to talk art, to connect, it was just an excellent experience,” she said.

She added the group of artists met a few years ago after attending an art retreat.

According to Gazely, after the retreat they would see each other twice a year and live with each other for one week to try and bounce ideas for the exhibit off of each other.

She also said she feels proud showing her artwork to her home community.

“There’s a mutual respect and love that the five of us ladies have for each other, so I feel so proud of the work that we’ve done together, it’s like an eclectic mix,” Gazely said.

She added visitors of the gallery have been enjoying the diversity of the exhibit.

Arterial will be at the Smithers Art Gallery until April 3.

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‘We are really going somewhere’: Qaumajuq Inuit art centre opening this month at the Winnipeg Art Gallery – The Globe and Mail



Qaumajuq is the first of its kind in the world – a unique sharing space where Inuit voices are front and centre.

Lindsay Reid/Winnipeg Art Gallery

In a Prairie city, 2,000 kilometres from Iqaluit, Canada is building a monument to Inuit culture: Qaumajuq, the new Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, opens to the public March 27. It will house the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world, with examples from all four regions of the Nunangat – the Inuit homeland in Canada – as well as work from other circumpolar territories; the planning has involved Inuit curators, artists and elders from the start. And yet Qaumajuq sits on the Métis homeland and traditional territories of the Cree, Dene and Dakota, a place of tall grasses and big rivers far distant from the blue ice and sharp peaks of the Nunangat.

Why Winnipeg?

“We get that question a lot,” WAG director Stephen Borys says.

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Truth is, Winnipeg has always been a cultural crossroads. With a colonial history as a fort, a Hudson’s Bay depot and a medical centre, it is the place where East meets West and the South goes North. In the 1950s, it was already a city where a Viennese art historian could start the WAG collection by buying Inuit carvings at the Bay. Today, it’s the place where the first Inuk with a PhD in art history can help launch a unique collaboration between the gallery, the government of Nunavut, the First Nations of Manitoba and the people of the North.

“Museums came out of a history of the Western [way of] knowing, documenting, classifying and colonializing: Museums were places to hold knowledge of other cultures,” said curator Heather Igloliorte, the Labrador Inuk and Concordia University art historian who advised the WAG. “It’s a lot of work to unpack how institutions function in the present. I am very proud of the work we are doing and grateful to everyone at the WAG. … We are really going somewhere.”

South-facing view of Visible Vault at Qaumajuq, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture and associate Cibinel Architecture.

Lindsay Reid/Winnipeg Art Gallery

One of the reasons this is happening at the WAG is because the institution has a long commitment to collecting Inuit art created after 1949. It began buying seriously in the 1950s long before other Canadian public galleries, which tended to view the carvings and prints as ethnographic material best left to what was then called the Museum of Man in Ottawa. This origin story is a funny one: Ferdinand Eckhardt, the Austrian lured to Winnipeg to lead WAG in 1953, first saw Inuit sculpture in the gift shop at the Bay, located just across the street from the gallery. Why, he wondered, wasn’t his institution collecting this unique Northern art form?

The collection grew rapidly, regularly enhanced by donations from local collectors encouraged by Eckhardt’s interest, but also including several pieces he actually purchased from the Bay. By 2008, when Borys arrived on the scene, the WAG had amassed more than 13,000 works, both sculptures and prints, including many of the most recognized Cape Dorset images such as Kenojuak Ashevak’s The Enchanted Owl. (Only the archive of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative of Cape Dorset has more items, while the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa has a larger collection of archeological material.) Meanwhile, the WAG has continued to acquire the increasingly non-traditional and unconventional work produced by contemporary Inuit artists.

Jesse Tungilik’s sealskin and beads spacesuit (2019), a collection of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) Indigenous Art Centre.

Jessica Kotierk/Winnipeg Art Gallery

With that scale of collection, overseen by curator Darlene Coward Wight, the WAG became an obvious partner for Nunavut after the establishment of the new territory in 1999. The Nunavut archives hold a collection of more than 7,000 works, all kept in storage awaiting the day when the territory can finally build an art centre of its own. In the meantime, it has lent the material to Winnipeg, where many pieces will go on public display for the very first time and will also be digitized for remote access.

Physically, many of the sculptures will be housed in the three-storey-high open vault that is the centrepiece of Qaumajuq and the new building designed by Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan. It’s a tower of glass shelving that brings 4,500 carvings into the light, profiting from stone’s immunity to UV damage. It can be seen from the street through the glass façade that makes up the lower half of the building; the curving upper portion, clad in white granite, echoes the shape of an iceberg, and the whole wing tucks up alongside the blunt end of the modernist triangle that is the original WAG building. At night, the vault will shine like a lantern and at any time of day it stands as a symbol of the new institution’s transparency. Qaumujuq means “it is bright,” or “it is lit,” in Inuktitut.

Before Maltzan came on board, the WAG had already established an Indigenous advisory circle co-chaired by Igloliorte, who grew up in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.: Her father’s family hails from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit territory in Labrador, while her mother is a white Newfoundlander. The advisory circle has stressed several areas in which the WAG could decolonize as it built Qaumajuq; the most obvious is the use of Inuktitut and First Nations names for all the galleries, chosen by a group of 14 elders and language keepers. The front lobby and vault are called Ilavut, meaning “our relatives,” recognizing both the artists and the artworks as spiritual predecessors.

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“It’s not just lip service but making Indigenous language part of the institution,” Igloliorte said, stressing that Inuktitut names, rather than generic English descriptors, were being used by gallery staff. “What’s unique about this advisory circle was it was formed before ground was broken. … The WAG was willing to give up some power and authority to Indigenous people.”

The circle also recommended there be an Indigenous member of the WAG executive – she is Julia Lafreniere, head of Indigenous initiatives, who is Métis – and more Indigenous participation in the education department. (The nearby Canadian Museum for Human Rights got in trouble last year after it was discovered that non-Indigenous docents were telling First Nations stories to visitors.)

Left to right: Nicole Luke and Jocelyn Piirainen. Physical visitors will also be able to tour Inua, the centre’s inaugural exhibition.

Calvin Lee Joseph/Winnipeg Art Gallery

Part of Lafreniere’s job is to figure out what Qaumajuq means to the Indigenous community on Treaty One, the 1871 agreement covering southern Manitoba, a territory that is home to five First Nations and the Métis.

“It’s really important that we are praying for the artwork and welcoming it to this territory; welcoming Inuit knowledge to this territory,” Lafreniere said, adding there were many similar traditions among Indigenous peoples but that Inuit geography was very different. She pointed to the figure of Sedna, the goddess of the sea who features in Inuit creation myths and visual art, as an example of a maritime culture quite foreign to First Nations in Manitoba. Blending the various cultures, Lafreniere has been organizing a series of opening ceremonies, some virtual, some outdoor, relying on Inuit and First Nations elders for appropriate prayers, songs and dances. Until the pandemic is clear, the only Inuit who can visit Qaumajuq are the few who live in Winnipeg already or who have come south for medical care, but the WAG is offering free admission to all Indigenous people on March 22.

“My favourite thing is to bring Inuit people into the building and see their faces light up,” she said.

Physical visitors will also be able to tour Inua, the centre’s inaugural exhibition. It’s another exercise in inclusion, organized by four curators from each region of the Nunangat. From east to west, Igloliorte comes from Nunatsiavut, Asinnajaq is an artist from Nunavik in Northern Quebec; Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is the curator of Inuit art for the government of Nunavut, and Kablusiak, an Inuk artist from the West now based in Calgary, was shortlisted for the Sobey Award in 2019.

The show they have put together, featuring 100 works by artists from across the circumpolar region, includes some Inuit art from the 1960s and 1970s, but also some highly contemporary examples, including Jesse Tungilik’s sealskin spacesuit and two works by Eldred Allen, a Labrador photographer who stitches together multiple drone photos to create digitally altered landscapes.

“We want to surprise people and say how you are thinking about Inuit art is not the only way to think about Inuit art,” Igloliorte said.

The four have also included an ancestor display where each presents a work by a forbearer, recognizing the way Inuit art is often created by artistic dynasties. Igloliorte has included a caribou skin purse sewn by her grandmother, the seamstress Susannah Igloliorte.

Photo by Labrador photographer Eldred Allen, who stitches together multiple drone photos to create digitally altered landscapes.

Winnipeg Art Gallery

The bold contemporary works, many specially commissioned for the opening, will provide a powerful contrast to Ilavut, the open vault that features many of the stone carvings on loan from Nunavut.

How long will they stay there, thousands of kilometres away from home? The WAG has renewed a five-year loan agreement with Nunavut to 2025, but “I will be the first to send it back as soon as they want it,” Borys said. “It’s a wheel, and we are not the hub, but a spoke.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the Inuit art centre Qaumajuq.

Qaumajuq, the new Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, opens to the public March 27 with a limited number of free timed tickets that day. The virtual opening celebrations take place March 25 and March 26 at 6:30 p.m. CST, and can be viewed at

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