We are beyond thrilled to share Dr. Julie Nagam’s Frank Talk this week with you. Dr. Julie Nagam (Metis/German/Syrian) is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media and the former Research Chair of Indigenous Arts of North America which was a joint position with the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Dr. Nagam is an Associate Professor in the department of Art History at the University of Winnipeg. She is the inaugural Artistic Director for 2020/21 for Nuit Blanche Toronto, the largest public exhibition in North America. Dr. Nagam’s scholarship, curatorial and artistic practice has been featured nationally and internationally. Please enjoy reading this inspiring Frank Talk below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
Photographer and lab tech for a Photo Q Professional Lab.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
How to work with people, the importance of quality, personal relationships with clients, and communication.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I went to my first contemporary Indigenous art exhibition in 1998 and it transformed the way I thought and felt. I was the first person in my family to attend university and I had never been to an exhibition before. It was the first time I had saw myself reflected into that space. At that point I was only interested in being an artist.
What do you do now?
I am a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media and the former Research Chair of Indigenous Arts of North America, which was a joint position with the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I am also an Associate Professor in the department of Art History at the University of Winnipeg. In addition, I am the inaugural Artistic Director for 2020/21 for Nuit Blanche Toronto, the largest public exhibition in North America. I am a practicing artist and researcher which includes digital makerspaces + incubators, mentorship, digital media + design, international collaborations and place-based knowledge. I am also a collective member of GLAM, which works on curatorial activism, Indigenous methodologies, public art, digital technologies, and engagement with place. My scholarship, curatorial and artistic practice has been featured nationally and internationally. I am building an Indigenous Research Centre of Collaborative and Digital Media Labs in Winnipeg, Canada.
Where are you from?
What is the arts community like there?
We have a strong community of artists, curators and scholars. We also have a strong Indigenous arts community that is thriving and creating some of the most dynamic work in Canada.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
I think everything is shaped by my cultural and geographic understanding of the world and is informed by my upbringing and home.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Be yourself and do your work because you have passion for what you do. Have integrity and hold others up while you do your work because it makes everyone stronger.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
That is a hard question because there is not just one thing, I feel.
What has been a challenge for you?
Working in spaces that are colonial, racist and gendered.
What is something you do every day at work?
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
Open communication and exchange on both ends. To understand that you both learn from each and have important roles.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
That is a hard question because I really do think it is about connection and being yourself.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
I think your work can speak for itself — when you have integrity and passion it shows.
What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?
Make connections to people in your field.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Be present and engaged.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
It’s a fine balance of trying to be your professional self and your social self at the same time. It is important to say things succinctly and with careful use of your words. Practice your answers in advance as this helps to be clearer and more precise.
Any other anecdotes about your experience in the art world that you would like to share?
For me it is about connections and creating space for marginalized artists, curators and scholars to have opportunities to continue their incredible work.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
The Honolulu Biennial.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
I am not sure as I feel there is so much great work out there…