In my third year, it was the first time two of my professors did something to force students to go to the Agnes. They made it for marks. As we all got up to cover ourselves in layers and head over in the brisk winter, students discussed the fact that they had no idea where it was. We were in Ellis: the art gallery was literally next door. It made me realize how many students aren’t taking advantage of the fact that we have a whole art gallery literally on campus. I’m hoping to convince you to go, because we have free admission, but also because of the fantastic display of Canadian art and artists that live with us at Queen’s today.

I was lucky enough to have a group of friends encourage me to go to the Kent Monkmann exhibit opening last fall without knowing anything about his paintings. After tracking down the hors-d’oeurves floating around the entrance, we went inside to see what Monkmann was all about.

The first painting you see is “The Daddies”. (not affiliated with Queen’s Baddies) You meet Monkmann’s time travelling alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle painted into the scene of Confederation. Monkmann reinterprets history by commanding the narrative and giving Indigenous people a rightful place in this pivotal moment in Canadian history.  His art is not only beautiful, but reflective of Canadian and indigenous history. As his exhibit travelled around Canada, I learned even more about the reality of the past and present of Indigenous struggles through Monkmann’s way of showing it.

If you are unfamiliar with the collection itself at the Agnes, not only do they have a collection all about the power of women in history but they even have three paintings by Rembrandt. (I swear the man in the painting Arms Akimbo looks EXACTLY like Justin Timberlake, let me know if you agree) That’s a fraction of the art they have at the Agnes, that I remind you, you can see for free.

So I know your question is, what’s going on at the Agnes now?

Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts was revealed during the winter season launch and is introduced by the Agnes as, “How can a score be a call and tool for decolonization? Curated by Candice Hopkins (Tlingit) and Dylan Robinson (Stó:lō), Soundings: An Exhibition in Five Parts features newly commissioned scores and sounds for decolonization by Indigenous artists who attempt to answer this question.”

I don’t want to give too many details because there is something special about coming into an exhibit without prior knowledge of what it entails, but many students rave about how unique the experience of seeing the exhibit was. My friend, a master’s student, describes it not only as beautifully interactive, but that it gives people who are unfamiliar with Indigenous art the ability to engage with it.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre gives us an opportunity to understand the importance of student engagement, not only in appreciating arts itself, but specifically being more knowledgeable about indigenous art. As students, we know that “Queen’s University is situated on traditional Anishnaabe and Hadenosaunee Territory,” therefore, let’s take our acknowledgement a step further and appreciate and interact with the art that comes from Indigenous artists.

The Agnes is amazing, it’s free admission and it’s on campus.

So, I’ll see you there?