The Woodland Cultural Centre was established in October 1972 under the direction of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians upon the closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. The Centre originally began its focus on collecting research and artifacts to develop its library and museum collections. By 1975, the Centre’s Director Glen Crane found it necessary to include the arts in to the Centre’s yearly programming thus developing Indian Art, an annual juried art exhibition the Centre still holds to this day albeit the title has been changed to First Nations Art. Over the years, the programming and support communities have changed in large part due to the social-political climate of the times. Originally there were approximately 9 member communities and currently we have 3 member communities. This is in response in large part to the geographic distances and the need from some of the communities to develop their own cultural centre to ensure the survival of their distinctive languages. A driving force behind the changes to the Centre’s programming during the 1980s and 1990s was Tom Hill as the Museum Director. Today, the artistic staff is responding to the needs and diversity of our First Nations artists. Many of today’s artists are studying art at a post-secondary institution and being exposed to the mainstream art community, thus influencing the medium(s) in which they work. The Centre’s collection has developed throughout the years with much of the art being acquired through gallery visits, First Nations Art submissions, and purchasing art displayed from one of our exhibitions. The Centre also works closely with the performing artists in our community by either presenting the artists in our venue as part of our public programming, or partnering with the performing artists on a collaborative project that assist both our programming and development of artists.
Some examples of the Centre’s main accomplishments are: our annual juried art exhibition First Nations Art which features First Nations artists from across Canada and the United States both established and emerging artists; Lifeworlds-Artscapes: Contemporary Iroquois Art a multi-disciplinary art exhibition from Iroquoian artists which was a cooperative venture between the Museum der Wletkulturen, Nordamerika Native Museum in Germany and the Woodland Cultural Centre; Kaha:wi a contemporary Aboriginal dance work which was a partnership between choreographer Santee Smith and the Woodland Cultural Centre; Trade Roots: Presenting Aboriginal Arts Conference which brought together Aboriginal artists, arts organizations, funders and experts to discuss the needs and outcomes of Aboriginal Arts in Canada; Arts Access a province-wide community arts project in collaboraton with the Art Gallery of Ontario, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Woodland Cultural Centre which brought together artists, galleries and communities creating art around the theme of ‘Home’; and Planet IndigenUs 2009 a co-production with Harbourfront Centre which is the largest festival of multi-disciplinary contemporary and international Indigenous artistic work anywhere.