Carla Taunton wins gold medal for PhD thesis
June 6, 2012

NSCAD professor Carla Taunton has been honored with Queen’s University’s Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal for her PhD thesis, Performing Resistance/Negotiating Sovereignty: Indigenous Women’s Performance Art in Canada. The medal is awarded on the basis of outstanding academic achievement.

While studying for her PhD at Queen’s in Kingston, Ont., and her Master’s degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, Carla became focused on indigenous visual culture. Her appointment to NSCAD’s Historical and Critical Studies Division last fall brought a much needed attention to aboriginal art in the university’s art history course offerings.

“Through my study of Canadian history and art history I started to see the erasures of Indigenous perspectives,” she says.

“At the same time, I became engaged by the dynamism of art produced by Indigenous artists—the work is so pointed, at times political and has the potential for social change. I realized I wanted to contribute to processes of decolonization and politics of social justice. During my research I recognized that I had a responsibility as a settler scholar to work within institutions to build ethical, productive, and collaborative scholarship and pedagogy.”

As a teacher, researcher and a curator, there’s much to do. This summer, she’s working on adapting her dissertation for publication and applying for a SSHRC workshop grant with Heather Igloliorte (BFA 2003) with the hopes of bringing leading artists, scholars and curators in the field of aboriginal art to NSCAD next summer. As well, she’s helping to organize an exhibition of contemporary aboriginal art from Atlantic Canada at the Khyber Centre for the Arts; curated by Alan Syliboy called Snapshot, the exhibition will feature the work of six artists including Mi’kmaw artist and NSCAD grad Ursula Johnson (BFA 2006).

Teaching duties resume in earnest in September when Carla will teach the Foundation-level Introduction to Visual Culture, the second-year Survey of Indigenous Art (AHIS-2505) and the third-year Contemporary Indigenous Arts (AHIS-3460).

And the cherry on top of it all? Her work has been cited in a major report by the Canada Council for the Arts called Understanding Aboriginal Arts in Canada Today: A Knowledge and Literature Review. (See PDF)

“That’s a huge honor—to be named along side the big thinkers in the aboriginal art community that I’ve been mentored and inspired by,” says Carla.

CarlaTaunton-350    NSCAD professor Carla Taunton researches and teaches indigenous arts.