A long weekend doesn’t seem like much of a break between leaving one demanding position and taking up another, especially while maintaining an ongoing commitment to a third. But curator and writer Tarah Hogue, who has just departed her busy job at the grunt gallery to become the Vancouver Art Gallery’s first senior curatorial fellow in Indigenous art, seems cheerily relaxed. She is speaking to the Straight in a Chinatown coffee shop, having just wrapped up a meeting at the nearby Gam Gallery, an independent exhibition and studio space she curates with Julia Kreutz. Phew.
“I managed to have a couple of weeks of holiday with my family this summer,” she says, reassuringly. “And I was also at a writer’s residency at BUSH Gallery.” There’s a certain fond reciprocity here: the BUSH Gallery, near Kamloops, is a project of Secwépemc artist and curator Tania Willard, and Hogue wrote a catalogue essay to accompany Willard’s show dissimulation (which opens September 15 at the Burnaby Art Gallery).
Hogue, whose mother is Dutch-Canadian and father is Métis, was born and grew up in Red Deer, Alberta. “A lot of my curatorial work is informed by my own personal exploration and questioning of place,” she says. “As a Métis person who was raised in Alberta, which is not where my family is from, and then moving to Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territory, what does it mean to be thinking about this large category of Indigenous art in this place?”
Hogue arrived in Vancouver in 2008, after completing a bachelor’s degree in art history at Queen’s University. “I started as an English major but as soon as I took an art-history class, I was totally enamoured,” she says. She also recounts that when she was young, she accompanied her mother, who was researching historic Dutch samplers, through the backrooms of a number of museums. “I think that put the bug into me,” she says. “Got me interested in cultural production.”
She was drawn to Vancouver by old friends who were attending Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and worked with them in 2009 to create the Gam Gallery, which they initially supported by renting out space for musical performances, community events, film screenings, workshops, and artists’ studios.
In 2010, Hogue enrolled in the master’s program in critical curatorial studies at the University of British Columbia, and since she graduated in 2012, her career has snowballed. She began working at the grunt in 2014, was the 2016 Audain Aboriginal Curatorial Fellow at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and organized an impressive lineup of exhibitions, cultural events, and symposiums. Significantly, she cocurated two shows that opened in 2013 and that addressed Indian residential schools, Witnesses at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (which she worked on straight out of graduate school) and NET-ETH: Going Out of the Darkness at Malaspina Printmakers. Her curatorial approach is feminist and collaborative, as seen in #callresponse, her most ambitious project to date. Organized through the grunt with Willard and Brooklyn-based artist Maria Hupfield, it focuses on Indigenous women from across Canada and the United States.
“I’ve been very fortunate to start curating when I did, having my first show, Witnesses, around the time of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings, which really catalyzed a lot of responses,” she says. “You see a lot of other institutions that are making moves to hire Indigenous curators, and universities that are interested in indigenizing their curriculum.” It’s an extremely important process, she says—and long past due.More