On Thursday November 8, Mica Le John (Education Programs Manager) and Rachel Gugelberger (Curator and Director of Curatorial Lab) set off on an early flight to Toronto to attend the 2018 CIARS Decolonizing Conference. Mica and Rachel would like to honor and recognize that they were occupying the sacred land of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River in order to attend the event.

Organized by The Centre for Integrated Anti-Racism Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the conference was a three-day event with Indigenous, North American and international scholars addressing this year’s theme: Dialoguing and Living Well Together. The full conference program with session descriptions can be found here.

Mica presented alongside Melanie Butler of Storyline Media on Saturday November 10 to a group of energized educators, scholars and activists. Art, Activism and Education was an interdisciplinary workshop on the role arts can play in forming alternative classrooms. The presentation included a screening of Water Warriors (an award-winning short documentary about successful community resistance) followed by a zine-making workshop centered on the film’s themes (climate justice, Indigenous knowledge systems, allyship). Attendees left with a lesson plan to adapt the zine workshop for their classes and curriculum on decolonization linked to the film.


This conference offered valuable opportunities to reflect on NLE’s Education programs and new frameworks to consider in building future curriculum. I left the conference with more questions than answers. Questions I look forward to exploring more in the coming months as we begin to plan Young Exhibition Makers and ART ZONE 2019:

  • How does possessive language alter the ways in which we identify and understand people, places and programs?
  • What unique tools can we use to continue to engage the anti-racist/colonial methodologies that inspired Youth Action Council so NLE can support the action and resistance of more young people?
  • Where is there room for us to further uplift the voices of program participants and give them more space to tell their stories?
  • Where is gentrification taking place in the communities we work with and how can we act as allies against gentrification as a form of neighborhood and cultural destruction?

The presentation with Mel was both fun and rewarding — a number of the attendees had never made a zine before and our session was one of the few interactive ones of the many presentations over the weekend! Some of the zine pages made during the session can be seen here. If’ you’re interested in seeing the zine lesson plan and curriculum on decolonizing please email me.

Rachel’s Photo Journal (in no particular order)