Law faculty plans Indigenous art space

Call put out for Indigenous art to decorate the entrance of Macdonald Hall 

Macdonald Hall.

According to members of the Queen’s Faculty of Law, visitors to John A. Macdonald Hall will be greeted with specially created Indigenous art come next fall.

The Queen’s law faculty is putting out a call for Indigenous artists to submit their original work for display within the building’s main entrance, where the works will stay permanently. 

Project Coordinator Chantal Rousseau said the atrium provided a strong opportunity for presenting public art.

“It’s a space that everyone in the faculty crosses through,” she said. “It’s a really great opportunity.”

This project aims to complement efforts by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force by increasing the visibility of Indigenous art and culture on campus.

The project emerged at the beginning of the year when student senator and TRC Task Force member Jason Mercredi brought up the lack of Indigenous representation at the law school with Dean Bill Flanagan.

“’You know Dean, I don’t see anything in the law building that speaks to me as an Indigenous student’,” Flanagan said about the discussion. “I proposed this idea and he was very supportive.”

Further consultation with other Indigenous students and members of the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre also yielded support for the project as it began to take shape. A committee composed of Queen’s faculty, staff and alumni was formed to oversee the project.

After the initial round of entries are accepted by November 20, up to three shortlisted Indigenous artists will present their visions in a public open house where local community members can offer their input on the final decision and eventual unveiling next fall.

In terms of any regulation of the actual artistic content, the project is being left open for interpretation — Flanagan said the faculty was embracing a wide understanding of what art may finally be presented next fall. However, the school hopes to highlight Indigenous peoples’ relationship to law in some capacity.

“When we say the law we mean it in the broadest terms possible,” Flanagan said. “It could be Indigenous legal traditions, the relationship of Indigenous peoples to Canadian law, [or] Aboriginal law, which is a subset of Canadian law dealing with Indigenous peoples.”

The faculty hopes the project will work alongside the TRC Task Force, adding to recent efforts that include the hiring of Indigenous access and recruitment coordinator Ann Deer to increase Indigenous student enrollment.

According to Flanagan, the art’s placement in the faculty’s atrium should provide a welcoming environment for incoming Indigenous students, according to Flanagan.

“This can be a powerful statement about our commitment as a law school to our Indigenous students. Indeed, thinking about Indigenous legal traditions can be reflected in what we do in our law school,” Flanagan said.

However, the work isn’t done for the faculty.

“That’s a big challenge. We’re not there yet. We need to do more. I’m hoping this work of art will be reminder to us everyday about our commitments.”

Regardless, the Dean said he hopes the artwork’s inclusion will prompt discussion around how the faculty can make the school more welcoming for Indigenous students.

“This will be a great process for the law school where we come together and talk about the importance of having Indigenous artwork in the building and why we’re doing this and why we want this, to be a strong signal for Indigenous students that Queen’s will be a welcoming environment for them,” Flanagan said.


Indigenous Art, John A. Macdonald hall, Law

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