For the first time in the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity’s eighty-five-year history, Indigenous Arts will be programmed continuously throughout the calendar year.
“I really want to let the community know that [Banff] is an accessible place to you all year,” says Reneltta Arluk, director of Indigenous Arts, “not just in dance and in certain areas, and not just every once in a while.”
Arluk, who has been in her position since November 2018, has been working to make the expansive arts centre accessible to Indigenous communities locally, nationally and globally.
The 2018/19 season has so far focused on self-directed residencies as well as Indigenous storytelling and spoken word, with performance artists Justin Many Fingers, Waawaate Fobister and Daina Ashbee, each having created work at the centre in November 2018.
One of the main guidelines that Arluk follows is to make sure that the programming contains a strong community engagement element.
“How do we really engage artfully and authentically with Indigenous communities and with Indigenous culture and languages?” Arluk asks. “How do we do that in a way that is still connected to the practice and connected to the community?”
Another important pillar is regional representation. Outreach to professional artists based in Treaty 7 territory, where the Banff Centre is located, is a priority for Arluk, as well as continuing to provide programming where Indigenous artists from across the globe can meet, discuss, collaborate and create.
“It’s really conversations that I’m working towards right now,” Arluk states. “Indigenous people globally have the same conversations around how do we integrate our traditional practice, how do we utilize our traditional knowledge in a way that is contemporary and is connected to both contemporary arts and traditional knowing.”
While the current season is centred around accessibility, the programming for 2019/20 is about “the future of.” Facing the question of how lived knowing and lived experience can influence and heighten contemporary practice, Arluk wishes to draw connections between what are often perceived to be disparate fields.
From dance artist Victoria Hunt’s BodyWeather workshop in February 2019, to Terrance Houle’s collaboration-based Ghost Days project in April 2019, to permanent sculptures by Joi Arcand and Rebecca Belmore, Arluk aims to provide a rich and sustainable base for Indigenous-led projects on the microcosm that is the Banff campus.
“I’m trying to create as much autonomy as possible but in a way that is inclusive,” Arluk explains. “We are having these opportunities and having these conversations. The fact that we are able to create these environments where there is an equality is so important.”