Dawson art history students listening to Métis artist Daphne Boyer fall 2022

Art history teachers come together to rethink discipline


For several years, Dawson Fine Arts faculty members Dr. Emma Doubt and Dr. Pohanna Pyne Feinberg have been having discussions about shifting pedagogical and curricular approaches in the art history discipline.

“These shifts in the discipline resonate with a global paradigm shift and social justice movements that call for decolonizing education (amongst other systematic social and political structures) by offering content in our classrooms that resonates with and inspires all of our students — and, in the process, also creates open, safe spaces where we can discuss reconciliation and healing in Canada through an artistic lens,” Emma and Pohanna said.

Opening the exchange

“During our discussions, we realized how beneficial it was to share our ideas, our resources, our frustrations, as well as our successful and unsuccessful attempts at new activities and integration of enriching content. As we supported one another in our attempts to move away from linear versions of Eurocentric Western art history in meaningful and heartfelt ways, we wanted to open the exchange for other CEGEP art historians to offer their insights, and hopefully also benefit from ongoing discussions within a network of support.”

Out of this, a project entitled Making Art Histories was developed with funding from an ECQ grant.

“The name of the project, Making Art Histories, is a recognition that historical narratives are constructed and, therefore, they can also be reshaped and re-storied. The concept of “re-storying” is profound for us, and we are grateful for the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer, which has helped us to understand the concept’s importance within our own educational context,” Emma and Pohanna explained.

To date, about a dozen teachers from Dawson, Vanier, John Abbott, Heritage College and Champlain St. Lambert have met in April and December of 2022 and another meeting is planned for this spring.

“Leading up to the meeting in April 2022, we met with each participant individually to ask them specific questions to learn more about Indigenizing, decolonizing, and anti-racist initiatives at their respective colleges. … Based on their comments and aspirations, we then planned this first group meeting around discussion points that seemed to be most pressing,” they said.

Challenging and emotional

The project aims to meet “the need to share, listen and feel heard, to share resources, to learn from one another, to support our unique approaches and initiatives, to question one another, and to simply feel like we are in-community as we move through this often-challenging emotional labour, while also addressing silences and omissions in the field of art history,” they said.

Emma and Pohanna hope to provide ongoing learning, support, collective excitement, and growth: “We are also eager to continue to refine our pedagogy in order to ensure that our students feel seen, heard, empowered, and represented through the art and visual culture that they encounter in our classrooms.”

“We are aware that many other faculty members at Dawson in diverse disciplines are moving through like-minded questions, and making space within their teaching for approaches that make space for anti-racist, decolonizing and Indigenous pedagogical approaches. We know this is essential, meaningful and hard. We applaud you!

“We would love to feel waves of support for like-minded initiatives to ripple across Dawson College —with enthusiasm and kindness for questions as well as divergent perspectives — and for the college to feel proud of the contributions we are all making to these collective efforts for the empowerment and upliftment of future generations.”

The next event coming up for members of this art history exchange is a workshop with Emily Keenlyside, a specialist in museum pedagogy.

Last Modified: May 1, 2023