We’re lucky in Halifax to have a vibrant arts community, and there are several great exhibitions coming our way. There are two main themes at play: art made by women and art made by First Nations peoples. After the year we’ve just had, with its long overdue focus on calling sexual predators to account, and with Canada’s sesquicentennial focus on reconciliation with First Nations, both overdue projects of acknowledging and redressing wrongs, a series of exhibitions on these topics is timely and necessary.

AGNS, MSVU Art Gallery, Dalhousie Art Gallery, SMU Art Gallery and the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD are all going to host exhibitions that deal with both of these themes, often simultaneously.

Later this month a two-person exhibition called The Illuminations Project opens at AGNS. The fruits of a decade-long collaboration between Shary Boyle and Emily Vey Duke, it’s a version of call and response: Duke would send writing to Boyle who would make a drawing based on the text, then send a different drawing to Duke who would write in response to it, and so on.

The result is a form of conversation between the two artists. This October, AGNS hosts Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resistance, a nationally touring exhibition of the work of Kent Monkman, a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry, and perhaps the most noted contemporary Canadian artist working today. His large paintings, history re-interpreted, are not to be missed.

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Melanie Authier, Beneath the spin light (2016). acrylic on canvas.

The MSVU Art Gallery will feature another nationally touring exhibition of a first nations artist when it hosts the exhibition Maria Hupfield: The One Who Keeps on Giving. A video installation and performance, the project’s title is based on Hupfield’s mother’s Anishinaabe name and documents a performance by the artist and her siblings in Parry Sound. MSVU opens the exhibition season with a touring solo show of recent abstract paintings by the Montreal-born and Ottawa-based painter Melanie Authier. Contrarieties & Counterpoints was curated by Robert Enright.

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Marlene Creates, video still from “Spots of Memory: what I remembered during one month away after six years on Blast Hole Pond Road, Newfoundland 2008”. Image courtesy of the artist.

Dalhousie Art Gallery will feature a major retrospective of the photo and installation work of Newfoundland artist Marleen Creates in February, a project co-curated by former DAG Director/Curator Susan Gibson Garvey. This fall the gallery will feature Nanabozho’s Sisters, curated by Wanda Nanibush in conversation with DAG Director/Curator Peter Dykhuis. The exhibition will address the use of humour by Indigenous women artists.

Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery will feature a group exhibition called #callresponse this September, featuring local commissioned art installations by five First Nations women artists, including 2017 Sobey Art Award winner Ursula Johnson. The other artists in the exhibition are Christi Belcourt, Maria Hupfield, Tania Willard, and Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory.

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Dan Graham, Sunset to Sunrise (detail), courtesy of NSCAD University Permanent Art Collection.

Finally, there are several other notable exhibitions to watch for as well, ones that do not neatly fit the themes outlined above. I’m eagerly anticipating the full career retrospective of the late Gerald Ferguson at AGNS. The long-time head of NSCAD’s painting department, Ferguson, along with Garry Neill Kennedy, was one of the driving forces behind the NSCAD renaissance of the late 60s and 70s when our own local art school became world-renowned.

Another exhibition referencing NSCAD’s Golden Age is opening this month at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. The American artist Dan Graham is hardly a household name, but in the contemporary art world he’s as big as it gets (and his first solo exhibition was at NSCAD in the early ’70s). The team at the Anna is putting together a show of early work by Graham from their permanent collection. (Incidentally, there are student shows opening every Monday evening at the Anna Leonowens on the Granville Mall, checking them out is a great way to see what’s going on, or is going to be going on, in the next generation of artists).

This is just a fraction of the exhibitions that will be mounted over the coming year, as stated above, this is a dynamic and vibrant community. Welcome to 2018—it’s going to be a good year for the arts.

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