In Support of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Territory

June 4, 2021

The Toronto Biennial of Art (TBA) joins all those honouring the memory of the 215 Indigenous children found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory. ¹

Our thoughts and hearts are with the grieving families, and survivors of the horrifying acts of systematic, colonial violence perpetrated within the government-sanctioned Residential School system that was imposed upon First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We also recognize that Residential Schools are not “history”– the last school closed in 1996 – and that Indigenous peoples continue to shoulder the burden of colonial violence and intergenerational trauma. Today, this violence manifests through housing discrimination, lack of clean water on many reserves, inadequate healthcare, and access to education, to name only a few persistent issues.

As a settler organization operating on Treaty 13 land, we stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, and we recognize the important role we play in the ongoing process of Truth and Reconciliation. TBA is committed to accountability, justice, and equity for Indigenous communities across the land now known as Canada, and will continue to support and amplify the work of Indigenous artists and art workers both within and outside the Biennial.

As an organization with a platform, we call upon ourselves and those in positions of power to advance the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. We also encourage those not familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, to take the time to read the documents, their findings, and promote full implementation of the recommendations.

Suggested Resources and Ways to Help

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line:
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience: 1-866-925-4419

Indian Residential School Survivors Society:
https://www.irsss.ca/donate

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc:
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is accepting donations via: donations@kib.ca

There is no other fundraising initiative that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc has authorised or is participating in at this time.

¹ https://tkemlups.ca/remains-of-children-of-kamloops-residential-school-discovered/

Toronto Biennial of Art’s Ongoing Commitment and Vision Ahead

December 18, 2020

Dear friends, colleagues, partners, and supporters of the Toronto Biennial of Art (TBA),

What a year it has been.

We hope this note finds you and yours staying healthy as we continue to navigate uncertain times. Acknowledging that this holiday season will look so different for so many, the TBA team is sending healing energy and strength to you all.

For the Biennial, as for many organizations, this past year has been a time of reflection on and commitment to undertaking deep organizational work. Though we will always ask ourselves what more we can do, we are here to share with all of you our work to-date as well as our plans moving forward.

On July 2, 2020, our team and board of directors issued a Statement of Accountability . Since then, we have approached this Statement as the basis for creating a stronger organization and vision for the Biennial. As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting diverse voices, in particular those from Black, Indigenous, and POC communities, our Exhibitions and Programming team is continuing to commission new works and develop programs that create important public platforms for these artists and participants.

We also understand the need for organizations to support each other. In an effort to do so, TBA, its team, and board have come together to make an initial contribution to two BIPOC organizations doing inspiring work for emerging artists at this year-end: Nia Centre for the Arts and 7th Generation Image Makers.

As part of our pledge to embed equity into all of TBA’s practices, our team and the board have begun equity training sessions. All non-racialized staff members have also participated in a deep dive on implicit bias and privilege to support the collective building of an anti-racist organization.

This training furthers the work of TBA’s Equity Subcommittee, established by committed BIPOC team and board members this past summer. Their initial work has become a central pillar of the Biennial and includes senior leadership, board, and staff members. Thanks to this committee’s far-reaching vision and recommendations, TBA has undertaken an organization-wide HR audit that examines all aspects of our structure, operations, policies, and practices. This work will culminate in an Equity and Inclusivity Policy that will be revisited each year, as well as ongoing equity and leadership training.

The Biennial recognized the need to further diversify its board. We put out a wide, public call and added five new board members. Welcoming this deeply skilled and dynamic group transforms our board to majority BIPOC: an increase to 56% BIPOC members since this summer. We will continue to shape and strengthen the board with the same principles we are developing to expand our team, informed by equitable and transparent hiring practices.

Like today, TBA will continue to report back to our community and remain accountable to the commitments made in July. Our ongoing growth prompts us to regularly ask ourselves what more we can do, and how we can do it better in support of artists’ work and the values we hold. Our commitments will evolve over time to reflect this approach. 

We recognize that this work moves too fast for some and too slow for others. As we advance steadily and with focus, we want to extend our deep appreciation for the impact of so many of your voices in the past year. We are grateful for our continued exchanges—even and especially when they are challenging—and look forward to more conversations and collaborations in our exhibition year of 2022.

Until then, we wish you and yours a safe and healthy holiday season. 

On behalf of the Board of Directors and all Staff at the Toronto Biennial of Art

Statement of Accountability 

July 2, 2020

The staff and members of the board of the Toronto Biennial of Art (TBA) have been listening and learning over the past month. We are a young organization, less than a year out from the first edition of TBA. Yet we are all part of a Canadian society, with its colonial roots, that has far too long marginalized and oppressed—and continues to marginalize and oppress—Black and Indigenous peoples and People of Colour.

We affirm our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and denounce racism in all its guises. We support the dismantling of all systems of oppression. Words are insufficient. Signaling of virtue is not enough. This declaration must be supported by our actions. We will re-focus on the changes required to dismantle oppressive systems that produce and perpetuate white supremacy in all sectors of life.  

TBA was created to reflect the diversity of our host city. The first edition of TBA gave voice to artists of difference, and a majority of participating artists were Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). But that is not enough. We recognize that our board and staff leadership is predominantly white; necessary voices are missing. In addition to facilitating a diversity of perspectives with our exhibitions and programs, TBA will empower and give voice to BIPOC employees, individuals and communities in all that we do.

Specifically, TBA commits to the following:

    • We will advocate for equity and inclusivity in arts’ funding at all levels of government, and with private gifts, corporate donors and sponsors. As a start to this urgent work, TBA staff and board will deepen our relationships and partnerships with the Black community, while also taking the time to identify and organize donations in support of the community and the Black Lives Matter movement.
    • In 2020, we will develop and implement an Equity and Inclusivity Policy for our staff and board that is shaped by principles of anti-racism. The Policy will be supported by funds for on-going training. It will include the necessary steps in building and practicing equity, diversity, and inclusion through a lens of social justice.
    • TBA will put out a wide and public call to have a board of diversity. Our board, which currently consists of 40% BIPOC members, will commit to always having a chair or vice-chair from such community. Equity policies will guide how we support current staff as well as how we hire future staff and choose suppliers and partners. This is work we are currently undertaking and we will always ask ourselves how much more we can do.
    • We re-commit to an exhibition program that is inclusive and diverse. We will better support BIPOC artists and participants in future editions of TBA to ensure that the Biennial continues to foster the commissioning and development of new works which challenge the status quo.
    • To maintain transparency and accountability, we will regularly report back on progress towards achieving these goals.
      This is a moment of reckoning. TBA will do whatever is possible to be a part of solutions and not to perpetuate problems. We may make mistakes along that difficult road and are open to constructive feedback, as to how we can continue to grow as an organization.

We look forward to continuing to dialogue with our community of local, national, and international peers, artists, audiences, and partners on the road to a more just and equitable society.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and all Staff at the Toronto Biennial of Art