Vorano’s developmental endeavours

Canadian art professor assumes role as the curator of indigenous art at Agnes Etherington

Vorano has led art projects in the arctic.
Vorano has led art projects in the arctic.
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With plans to form ties with Indigenous communities and teaching in the gallery space, Norman Vorano well-prepared to assume the role of curator of Indigenous art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC).

As well as occupying the curator position, Vorano will be teaching North American Indigenous art in the Queen’s art history department this upcoming year.

He acquired his PhD from the University of Rochester in New York, after which he gained field experience in the Canadian arctic with a specific focus on Inuit art work in the 20th century. He also worked at the Canadian Museum of History where he also held a position as curator of contemporary Inuit art.

One of Vorano’s main goals as curator is to incorporate his teachings of Inuit art with the Indigenous galleries present in the AEAC.

“What I’d like to be doing at the Agnes is developing future classes and holding them right here in the gallery space,” he said. “Classes could be on different aspects of curatorial practice, particularly when it comes to working with Indigenous material. That’s definitely on the horizon.”

The scholar recognized the significance of bringing a wider variety of Indigenous art to students’ attention.

“I have to shed light on the Agnes’ own collection because the gallery does have Indigenous art already,” he said. “I’d like to have the Indigenous communities around Queen’s to have a little more presence in the gallery — that could be through collections or anything else.”

There will be opportunities to build more Indigenous art collections, programs and exhibitions, Vorano said. The AEAC has expertise in exhibiting contemporary art and his presence will enhance what they’re already doing, he added.

As well as implementing teachings within the arts centre, his main focus will be on forming mutually-beneficial partnerships with Indigenous communities surrounding the Kingston area. Vorano said he hopes to work on this in order to remain informed by Indigenous communities that play a significant role in the presence of the art, and any policies and protocols surrounding it.

“In broad strokes, I want to develop some good partnerships with Indigenous communities in Canada, as well as museums here, to help the development of the collections,” he said. “In that case it would be very appropriate to get the input from the appropriate elders and knowledgeable people from communities nearby.”

Having grown up in northern Ontario, where he was exposed to a lot of Indigenous art, Vorano’s interest in the topic sparked at an early age. A lack of teaching based on Inuit art in the university curriculum made him want to study it even more, he said.

“I’ve had an interest in it since I was young. When I went to university there was really no place to study it,” he said. “I found that the fact that they weren’t teaching it was unfortunate because it was such a popular art form — that right there was enough for me to pursue it.”

Vorano felt as if he could relate to this form of art, having grown up around it. This led to his education and experience undertaking research projects in the arctic related to the history of Indigenous art.

“I’ve always been interested in this form of art, so I decided to pursue and study it based on that,” he said. “I think we all want to study things that relate to our own experiences.”

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