As the Agnes Etherington Art Centre gears up to re-open its doors this summer, it has new ideas in the works.
With re-opening slated for July 1, the new Administration and Operations Coordinator, Kate Ducharme, said the Agnes offers a rewarding job, with the centre seeking to provide artwork as a source of pleasure and knowledge.
Ducharme grew up in Kingston, travelling to Waterloo and Ottawa for school where she worked in commercial galleries with community art groups. She made her way back to Kingston and worked at St. Lawrence College where she started working with students as Program Coordinator for the Marianne van Silfhout Gallery.
She applied for the Visitor Services role at the Agnes in 2018. After working as a liaison between the gallery and the public for the last five years, she’s now tackling her new role at the Agnes.
“It was always sort of a dream of mine to be able to come back in and work [here],” Ducharme said.
In her new position, she works behind the scenes at the Agnes as a support for the directors and Chief Curator.
“It’s connecting our staff, which is an amazing group of people, as well as the community with the Agnes in different ways,” Ducharme said.
The Agnes is a non-profit—and free—art centre which encourages people to come and experience its art as a pedagogical resource.
One program called the “Art Hive at Agnes” brings together young adults aged 18 to 24, providing them with activities centred on art and wellness. The workshop is free of charge and runs for two hours every Thursday.
Ducharme is focused on creating awareness for the Agnes and said activities like Art Hive get people to return and spread the word to others. She praised the arrival of the new Indigenous exhibition, Emergence, being presented upon the Agnes’ re-opening.
Ducharme explained when a new collection is presented to the Agnes, the Head Curator will take its staff through the space in a mock tour to finalize the design.
Currently, the gallery space is not finished, but she said it will be layered with different textiles, hangings, and media.
“I think sometimes people have this idea about Indigenous art as historical. But that’s a really old way of thinking. There are lots of contemporary Indigenous artists that are just fabulous,” Ducharme said.
The exhibit will run from July 1 to Nov. 12. The final exhibition before the official close will feature a series of Kingston artists to demonstrate the community’s journey.
Despite the Agnes closing for a period, Ducharme said they’re not going dark.
“We’re just trying to make sure the community stays engaged with us, and part of that is reimagining the process so everyone is as excited about reopening as we are.”
Ducharme said the Agnes is in a “limbo spot” where they will close their doors and pack up their 17,000-piece collection. Her job examined how to pack up these collections and what ways they can envision programming once the new space is built.
She explained the move as a long and strategic process which is reliant on the support of their staff to enable different perspectives to come in and foster an inclusive and diverse team.
Even looking at the way the collection is stored is re-evaluated to include distinct knowledge systems.
“We’re thinking about our ancestors and cultural belongings that had been stored in very Western colonial vaults. We are in the process of thinking about how we should be caring for these cultural belongings, being guided by an Indigenous Advisory Circle, to think about future museum practices.” Ducharme said.
She said moving the Agnes is not the same as packing up an office. There is a lot more behind the scenes and she’s excited to see how the exhibit and the space will bloom.
A previous version incorrectly presented the nature of the Indigenous Advisory Circle mentioned in the story and the process being undertaken by the Agnes and its staff. Incorrect information appeared in the May 29 issue of The Queen’s Journal.
The Journal regrets the error
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