The Process Behind Ryerson’s New Aboriginal “Ring” Campus Installation


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By Prapti Bamaniya

A new Steel Ring art installation, designed by Indigenous architecture firm Two Row Architect, was unveiled at the intersection of Gould Street and Nelson Mandela Drive on September 21.

According to architects Jacqueline Daniel and Matthew Hickey, the art installation was an ongoing project with the university for two years. They said the project involved consultations with Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, elder and co-chair of the Ryerson Truth and Reconciliation Strategic Working Group; Brian Norton, the program coordinator at Indigenous student services; and Monica McKay, director of Indigenous initiatives. The consultation began with six sharing circles with indigenous communities and the ideas collected were raised.

According to a study in The International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Indigenous Peoples have used Sharing Circles as a method of conveying stories and experiences for generations, and they provide a respectful and supportive environment where “Indigenous Peoples can autonomously express their views and reflect on their experiences. experiences without interruption or questioning ”.

“It’s really about the aboriginal community with a voice at the university. We were just facilitators, ”Hickey said.

Next came exercises such as “design carts,” where groups used materials such as pipe cleaners and plasticine to mold what they thought the installation might look like. After coming up with a few concepts through this process, the architects came up with three different layouts for the installation and presented them to the community to choose the best design. After showing the discussion group of elders and Aboriginal leaders in Ryerson, the current “Ring” facility was chosen.

“We are really the bridge between the client or the people we work with and the community we work for,” said Daniel. “It’s less about my personal taste in design than about translating what people see, feel and want for their buildings or facilities. ”

“It’s really about the indigenous community with a voice at the university”

According to the head of Ryerson declaration, the ring is made of weather-resistant Corten steel, a material that is less processed and more likely to change with its environmental conditions, so its exterior changes over time. It incorporates the teachings of the seven grandparents and their animal symbols: humility, courage, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and love.

Hickey said it also includes a depiction of the phases of the lunar moon surrounded by stars and the constellation Pleiades, an integral constellation for some indigenous communities.

The opening of the installation faces east, representing creations and new beginnings, and west, representing knowledge and wisdom.

“Passed down from generation to generation, First Nations communities have long referred to the teachings of the seven grandparents as a guide for their cultural foundation, human conduct and survival,” Dallaire said in a statement.

“In our traditional Indigenous teachings it’s all about intention and a good relationship with our world, so as we continue to face the many challenges of the past year, I am grateful that we have been able to come together as a community. to bring this meaningful vision to life.

Lynn Lavallée, Strategic Lead for Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services, who is Anishinaabe registered with the Métis Nation of Ontario, said she knows this facility is important because it gives Indigenous people the chance to see themselves. even on campus.

“For me, the Indigenous resurgence is about supporting Indigenous people within the academy and for that reason I believe that artwork can be used to make Indigenous people on campus feel welcome and welcome. recognized, ”she said.

On the other hand, Wreckonciliation X University, a group of indigenous students fighting for social justice and human rights at the university, expressed their frustration on Instagram with the unveiling of the installation before the new name of the institution.

“Where was the consultation? Why did this happen before the name change? What are the priorities here? »Their Instagram Publish bed.

Ryerson history teacher and former Strong Standing Working Group co-chair Catherine Ellis said she understands the time, work and thought that has gone into the new art installation.

She said her process included an important dialogue on the role of public art in a social environment.

“As our campus engages in a necessary conversation about how to implement the task force recommendations, this article may provide our community with opportunities to reflect, anchor, and imagine what the future holds. may look like, ”she said.


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