Ottawa Art Gallery to offer teachers lesson plans to better understand Indigenous culture

Detail from the cover of the the new Ottawa Art Gallery publication Contemporary Indigenous Arts in the Classroom.

They say that the artists can lead the way.  The Ottawa Art Gallery certainly seems to believe that. They have just announced a publication and program called Contemporary Indigenous Arts in the Classroom.

The idea is to provide elementary and high school teachers with lesson plans prepared by contemporary Indigenous artists to build awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples. The goal is to also gain an understanding and ritical take on colonialism in Canada.

“Contemporary Indigenous Arts in the Classroom is one of what we hope to be many sustainable contributions to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Through the lens of contemporary art and art-making we can discover the depth and complexities of Indigenous histories and cultures and, perhaps, shift the way we view the world,” said the gallery’s director Alexandra Badzak in a media release.

Two Ottawa-area artists Jaime Koebel, of Metis and Cree heritage, and Barry Ace, of Anishinaabe heritage, are involved in the project. Both have a strong connection with their cultures and they are also educators. Koebel and Ace have each developed an art lesson for the classroom.

The publication has been edited by the gallery’s head of Public, Educational and Community Programs, Stephanie Nadeau. It contains essays by David Garneau, who is Métis and an associate professor of Visual Arts at the University of Regina, along with artist, educator and art historian Wahsontiio Cross, who is from Kahnawake in Quebec. The publication also has  lesson plans, worksheets, artwork reproductions, sample student creations, discussion points and suggested readings. The publication will be distributed through ABC Art Books Canada and is to be available for purchase in the gallery’s shop. It is also available online at

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.