I Keep My Heart Wrapped In Leather: The Teachings Our Elders Gave

2019, Art, Our Stories Our Truths
Aboriginal, contemporary art, Indigenous, youth
About This Project

Date: June 19 – 29, 2019

Partner: Our Stories Our Truths and Canadian Roots Exchange

Location: Gallery 1313

Project Members: Kathleen Lew, Emily Pokocky


I Keep My Heart Wrapped in Leather: The Teachings Our Elders Gave features twelve Indigenous artists based in Tkarón:to. Visitors are invited to explore the gifts and skills of Indigenous youth and the community that grows from building bridges between generations. In this exhibition, Indigenous practices are mediums for resilience. The artists responded to a series of cultural teachings over seven months facilitated by the Our Stories Our Truths (OSOT) mentorship program. Artists connect to Indigenous knowledge in urban contexts, demonstrating how creative expression can contribute to healing, empowerment, and agency.

The intended audience of the exhibition is the OSOT artists’ friends and families, mentors and communities connected to the OSOT program, and Indigenous and contemporary art circles in the city. The exhibition also attracts a wider audience interested in arts and culture because National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) falls during the exhibition.

The exhibition is located in the main gallery at Gallery 1313 located at 1313 Queen St. W. in the neighbourhood of Parkdale (Toronto). The cost, location, and size of the space influenced the decision to hold it there. The gallery also supports emerging artists with professional development, and is willing to assist with marketing and installation.

I Keep My Heart Wrapped in Leather is brought to you by Our Stories Our Truths which is proudly supported by the Youth Opportunities Fund, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Canadian Roots Exchange, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Information.

Planning I Keep My Heart Wrapped in Leather began in September of 2018. Our major task for the first four months was securing a venue space and funding. In January 2019, we began researching and meeting with stakeholders. During February and March we met with the artists and drafted text for the exhibition. Marketing and editing occurs in April with final reviews and printing scheduled for the end of May. Installation is on June 18. The exhibition opens on June 19 with an opening reception on June 20. The exhibition closes on June 29.

I Keep My Heart Wrapped in Leather includes the artworks of twelve artists using a variety of mediums. This includes painting, prints, drawings, video, textile, jewellery, beadwork and installation. Didactic material on the gallery walls includes an introduction panel and tombstone labels. The exhibition also includes a small catalogue featuring facilitator statement, curatorial statement, artist statements, and images and sketches from the OSOT workshop series. Presentation methods are intended to balance both the individual and collective nature of the work. The exhibition seeks to give artists agency and voice in the display and sale of their work, while simultaneously providing professional opportunities.

Marketing for the exhibition is primarily digital and utilizes networks of the facilitators, artists, and curators. The gallery owner at Gallery 1313 assists with marketing by sending a media release to networks. We are sending personalized email invitations to OSOT workshop leaders, friends, and families. Information is also sent to arts related media and highlights how the exhibition occurs over National Indigenous Peoples Day. Programming includes an opening reception on June 20. The opening includes speeches, performances by the artists, caterer, and vendor table where the artists sell work.

We are grateful to Aura, Chief Lady Bird, and the artists for sharing and learning alongside us. We would like to thank Matthew Brower, Rebecca Noone, Camille-Mary Sharp, and our colleagues in MSL4000 for their guidance and support. Thank you to Phil Anderson for welcoming us to your space.