The Indigenous Arts Leaders Fellowship was created to address the lack of Indigenous artists and arts administrators in leadership positions. The Winnipeg Arts Council’s intent with this program is to increase opportunities for Indigenous people to be better represented among decision-makers in Winnipeg’s arts organizations.
Developed through an extensive consultation process with Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the arts community in Winnipeg and across Canada, WAC’s Fellowship program provides First Nations, Métis or Inuit Winnipeggers with nine months to expand their skills in arts administration through specialized training and enhanced workplace experience.
The program was launched in 2018 and the first year was a wonderful success. The first two Fellows have completed their terms and now have employment at arts organizations.
Niamh Dooley embarked upon the inaugural Indigenous Arts Leaders Fellowship at Martha Street Studio to expand her arts administrative skills and wound up with a new job – even before the end of her term.
The timing was perfect for Niamh, an Oji-Cree and Irish contemporary artist based in Winnipeg, Treaty 1 Territory. Her versatility has been key to her success. She’s found every day to be different. Much of her Fellowship time was devoted to a large-scale archives artwork database project, but her work has encompassed all facets of the studio’s activities, connecting with customers, classes, products and memberships.
Martha Street Studio is a dynamic artist-run centre, and Niamh is continuously delighted by the spirit of community she finds there. “I was surrounded by art and work with fellow artists. I got to see how each person contributes to this organization. I learned a great deal: new techniques for my own art practice, and a lot about artist-run centres.”
Niamh’s abilities shone through, and the Administrative Coordinator’s imminent retirement became an opportunity for her. She was perfectly placed to begin training on the job before taking over her new role. At present, she is adding even more skills to her repertoire, like managing the online store. “I look forward to continuing my journey and learning with Martha Street.”
When asked if she has any advice for the next Fellowship holders, Niamh says, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the beginning stages — and be vocal about what you’re doing.”
Seraph-Eden Boroditsky worked behind-the-scenes and took centre stage, at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. “I was Assistant Stage Manager for the Lawyers Play (a huge Royal MTC fundraiser), which took a lot of mental and physical energy but was an extremely rewarding experience. I’d do it again! I was involved with special events and received wonderful mentorship from seasoned and knowledgeable writers and administrators. Most importantly, I was able to develop relationships with my colleagues, which enabled me to help them build awareness of our history. We journeyed towards meaningfully engaging in Reconciliation, increasing accessibility, and including more Indigenous peoples in artistic and administrative roles.”
Through the Fellowship, Seraph-Eden sought to expand her arts administration experience in a meaningful way. She brought impressive credentials with her, as a (Red River) Métis cultural educator and entertainer with nearly 20 years in social justice and grassroots organizing, who studied Native Studies and Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Seraph-Eden also has a visual arts practice.
She found an ideal match, placed at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. The organization wanted Seraph’s expertise in showing them how to meaningfully engage in Reconciliation and add diversity to their labour force.
Seraph-Eden developed and designed a workshop called From the Beginning: Guided Conversations Towards Reconciliation, which she delivers through an anti-racism framework, from an Indigenous perspective, with experiential and academically derived content. It covers topics from Indigenous-Crown history and colonization through strategies for meaningful allyship and inclusion.
“Royal MTC wanted to act on their commitments in the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord and so they trusted me to develop this workshop series. I was the one to do it, to tell that truth, as scary as it was when I began… and, I tell it like it is! If you want to create tangible “Allyship”, you need to truly listen to the experiences of marginalized and racialized people. If you ask the question, like “What can I do?”, be prepared for the answer and be prepared to ACT on it. We got really good feedback on these workshops and I realized people are ready. More people are ready to hear this. So, I am continuing to expand the content and offering my guided conversations to groups and organizations who want to have them.”
Seraph also helped develop the commitments from Royal MTC as they signed on last year to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord. “Royal MTC was already fulfilling responsibilities from the 94 Calls to Action, simply because they are community conscious. But now there will be a focus on it, letting everybody within the organization and the community know that they are participating in important Reconciliatory actions to make the theatre and theatre arts more accessible and more diverse.”
Seraph-Eden Boroditsky’s experience was truly collaborative, and mutually enriching for her and Royal MTC, and the greater community. She is now working as the Education, Facility and Tour Coordinator at Prairie Theatre Exchange and has begun her guided conversations about Reconciliation with several organizations.
“Dismantling barriers is a beginning stage, not an end stage. I look forward to seeing relationships built as allies dismantle those barriers. I especially look forward to continuing this work, the work I’ve always done in one way or another, and seeing space taken up by Indigenous voices telling their own stories while being heard.”
Two more Fellowships are now underway with placements at The Manitoba Museum and Theatre Projects Manitoba. For more information about the program, contact Program and Arts Development Manager Dominic Lloyd.
Interested in Guided Conversations Towards Reconciliation, contact Seraph-Eden at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Winnipeg Arts Council is very pleased that this program is off to such a great start and we anticipate the program will continue to make a positive impact on the Fellows and the arts community as a whole.