Children to Children Art Installation Opening

Part of the Project of Heart Commemorating the Children of Future Generations Initiative the Ontario based commemoration project “Children to Children” will open at the 180 Projects Gallery in Sault Ste Marie on December 7th at 7pm. 

Project of Heart is a hands on artistic and history project aiming to commemorate the children who died while at residential school, teach the general public about residential schools, and promote social action.  Project of Heart has resulted in thousands of school children learning about residential schools, speaking with and learning from survivors of residential schools, and creating commemorative titles.

These commemorative titles have become the basis for commemoration projects across the country.  For example, in Vancouver a Tsleil-Waututh racing canoe was unveiled that was made from over 9000 Project of Heart tilesdecorated by students from over 250 schools in British Columbia.  

The “Children to Children” opening will feature an installation piece created by Shingwauk Residential School Survivor and Elder Shirley Horn, inter-generational survivor Shelly Fletcher, artist Zenith-Lillie Eakett and Dayna Rainville. The installation will use thousands of titles create by students from across Ontario, in commemoration of the legacy of residential schools.

Exhibition and Design Skills

I wrote earlier about project management and administration skills that have can be invaluable in a number of public history roles.  Since moving into the Researcher/Curator role in February I’ve also had an opportunity to continue to expand a range of exhibition, design, and outreach practices.

Visualizing space and display design have always been something I have found challenging.  These tasks are still challenging, but like any skill I’ve found that the more opportunities I have to practice these skills the easier they end up being.  Some of basic exhibition and design practices that can be valuable to public history practitioners looking to expand their skill set include:

  • Start small.  Curating an entire exhibit from scratch can be overwhelming.  Filling a display case on a set theme can be a good place to start gaining practice in display creation. 
  • Have a mentor.  Installation and display design can involve a lot of hands on work.  The best way to learn these skills is to do them and having someone around who is familiar with common practices can be a godsend.
  • Familiarize yourself with basic tools and ‘handyman skills.’  That home renovation you’re undertaking might have more value than you know — mudding holes in drywall, hanging artwork, cutting acrylic, building basic shelves, etc are all skills which can be used during exhibit install. 
  • Learn how to plan things out to scale using graph paper.  Or how to use Sketchup or a similar program to map out an exhibition place. 
  • Following museum or art gallery listservs can be helpful.  There are is also a wealth of material in many of these listsev archives which can be useful when looking to come up with options for a specific problem.  (Eg. what type of mount to use when hanging artwork that is mounted on plexi and foam core). 
  • Proofreading and writing skills are key to creating informative and concise exhibit text. 

If nothing else this whole experience has made me take way more of an interest in the house renovations and building projects that partner is undertaking.

Art Exhibit Labels

Exhibit labels take way more thought than most visitors realize.  Decisions about design, layout, wording and content all take time and effort.  My most recent challenge has been moving from the creation of museum exhibit labels to the creation of art exhibit labels. 

Though both types of labels serve similar purposes — to inform patrons about the work on display, the style of the labels can very greatly.  Ideally both museum and art labels should link back to the theme of the exhibit and support a general interpretation plan.  Introductory, background, gallery overview, and individual work labels are all common art exhibit label types.

My history background urges me to fill labels with historical context and biographical type details. Cultural and historical context are still important in art labels but so are references to artistic style, technique, process and linkages to the visual works.  Like museum exhibition labels there is always a struggle to include relevant information in a clear, concise, and appealing way. 

Personally I find introduction and gallery overview panels the most difficult, as these tend to be the most text-heavy labels.  When I visit art museums or galleries I like reading overview labels, but I often find that I skim longer labels and by the end of the gallery I have label fatigue.  There needs to be a middle ground between over explaining/labeling items and not providing any context. 

A few resources I’ve found helpful when just beginning to learn about art labeling practices:

Feel free to mention any resources you’ve found helpful in the comments.