The give and take of Powerful Glow

Powerful Glow celebrated its Opening Reception last Friday 17 June during an evening that began with an explosive outdoor performance by Archer Pechawis. Beginning with a touching tribute to Mike MacDonald at the site of Planting one Another and concluding with a rousing performance of the AIM Song, Pechawis grounded our evening in the legacy of the late Mi’kmaw artist whose work has shaped this exhibition.

Archer Pechawis kneels at the edge of a medicine garden placing objects within the plants

As an artist, documentary filmmaker and gardener, Mike MacDonald understood the importance of reciprocity among living beings. His work as a documentarian alongside land defenders in the 1980s and 1990s brought attention to the heavy costs of resource extraction perpetrated by settler governments and corporations that deplete the land without recompense. In his gardens, we recognize the interdependent relations of give and take that are required to sustain life – or as Lisa Myers explained in her recent conversation with Darryn Doull, “the interconnection of living beings and their less hierarchical interdependence where one is not deemed more important than the other.”

As the Curator of Powerful Glow, Lisa Myers has cultivated acts of reciprocity within this exhibition, which offers two opportunities for visitors to receive a gift and offer something in return through the artworks on view.

Close-up view of printed scarves hanging from a white rod next to an arrangement of three coloured kokum scarves

The first of these is Fallon Simard’s Gidaanji'idizomin; Gibimaadizimin debwewining (We are changing ourselves; We are living in the truth), an edition of 150 printed organic cotton bandanas that are among the first objects seen when entering the Main Gallery. Simard created the design for these scarves in response to Mike MacDonald’s medicine and butterfly gardens and, in the spirit of reciprocity and sharing, is offering them to Gallery visitors as a free takeaway for as long as supplies last.

Close-up view of Luke Parnell prints hanging from carved eagle-head wooden pegs


This act of generosity is balanced by an opportunity for visitors to give back to community through Luke Parnell’s Laxgiik Convocation Robe, an installation modelled on woven Chilkat blankets used in the context of west coast potlatches. These highly valued blankets were sometimes divided up and gifted to attendees so their materials could be integrated into future regalia; in this same spirit, Parnell invites visitors to purchase prints that will be torn from their wooden pegs throughout the exhibition, leaving two tear marks along the upper edge.

Instead of giving away its pieces, Parnell has made these prints available for purchase in a gesture that acknowledges the tensions of the Northwest Coast art market. Federal law made potlatch illegal from 1885 to 1951, abruptly interrupting the transfer of knowledge and wealth within Northwest communities, while museum collections simultaneously increased their holdings. 

Luke Parnell hands a woman a print from his installation

Individual prints may be purchased for $50 each by inquiring with KWAG staff at Visitor Services. All proceeds from the sale of prints will be directed toward Revitalizing Our Sustenance Project (ROSP), an Indigenous youth-led program that is revitalizing sustainable agricultural practices and feeding communities in the Six Nations of the Grand River. With upwards of 1500 prints available for purchase, this project has the potential to make an incredible difference for this grassroots organization while honouring the legacy of Mike MacDonald’s teachings.

Powerful Glow remains on view until 18 September – be sure to add a visit to your summer plans to enjoy the opportunity to engage in these opportunities for reciprocity and care.

Images, from top:

1. Archer Pechawis places a tribute to Mike MacDonald in Planting one Another during his performance For Mike at the Opening Reception of Powerful Glow. Photo: KWAG

2. Fallon Simard, Gidaanji'idizomin; Gibimaadizimin debwewining (We are changing ourselves; We are living in the truth), 2022. Printed organic cotton bandana, edition of 150. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: KWAG.

3. Luke Parnell, Laxgiik Convocation Robe (detail), 2019. Lithograph (open edition), carved basswood. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: KWAG.

4. Luke Parnell hands a print from Laxgiik Convocation Robe to a visitor during the Opening Reception of Powerful Glow. Photo: KWAG.