The common definition of ‘Curator’ is “keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection”. After meeting Dr. Catherine Hale, the effervescent and first-ever Curator, Creative Campus Galleries at Sheridan, that definition seems superficial at best. That’s because Hale, in her curatorial practice, is focused less on arranging art on walls, and more on the power of art and visual culture to start conversations and examine important issues from multiple perspectives.
Hale joined Sheridan in the fall of 2016, and her first exhibit here reflected this approach. Indigen:US, a collaboration with photographer and Sheridan graduate Elijah Monroe, explored how government-issued status cards influence the identity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the Sheridan community and in Canada. This pop-up exhibit toured Sheridan campuses, and was the impetus for a series of ‘talking circles’ which brought diverse members of the community together to explore wider issues around being Indigenous.
“That is what so much of my work is about – using creative work to initiate dialogue and ask tough questions,” she says.
Ever since she was a child, Hale has been driven by an insatiable curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Those qualities guided her in her education, which includes a Masters in Canadian Art History from Carleton University and a PhD in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University. “One of the wonderful things I found in studying art history is that you can use an art object to think about literature, to think about science or politics or medicine. It was a way in which I was able to think about all kinds of interesting things, to meet interesting people and ask interesting questions.”
“That is what so much of my work is about – using creative work to initiate dialogue and ask tough questions.” – Dr. Catherine Hale
Before joining Sheridan, she held curatorial positions at the University of Iowa and Stanford University, where she specialized in African and Indigenous art and was intrigued by the complicated colonial history that influences art and how it is displayed in North America and around the world.
Along the way, she developed her own unique curatorial practice. “A lot of my experience was built around seeing myself as a facilitator and liaison with different communities. It’s really important to me that the communities being represented in an exhibit have a role and a voice in that process.”
Hale’s first major exhibit at Sheridan is entitled “human: purposeful creativity for our communities”, currently on display at the HMC B-Wing Gallery. Its conception and development involved a process of reaching out across the Sheridan community during her first months here, meeting with staff, faculty and students. “What I kept hearing from everyone I met is that their work is about people, and what they can do to alleviate the challenges of everyday life. That became the inspiration for “human”.
The result? A diverse and eclectic exhibit, featuring everything from metal stampings used in car assembly, to a table designed to make mealtimes more inclusive at a children’s hospice, to an interactive web application that helps athletic therapy students better understand the body – all creations developed at Sheridan.
“It was important to me to send a message that the Creative Campus Galleries are an inclusive environment. This exhibit demonstrates Sheridan’s ethos of creativity across all disciplines, and in our different faculties, programs and research centres.”
With two exhibits now under her belt, Hale is excited about continuing to build the Creative Campus Galleries in collaboration with the broader community. “The goal is to make creativity visible so that not only do the galleries function as a showcase of the incredible work that’s happening at Sheridan, but also connect us to other communities and act as a catalyst to bring people and ideas together.”
“human” continues at the HMC B-Wing Gallery until August 11, 2017.
Pictured at top of page: Dr. Catherine Hale, Curator, Creative Campus Galleries at Sheridan. Photo by alumnus Jonathan Bielaski.
Written by: Susan Atkinson, (retired) Director, Communications at Sheridan.
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