Awakening presents works from Canadian and Indigenous artists held in the Canada Council Art Bank collection that shine a spotlight on our relationship with the environment. These works depict collisions between city and ecology, nature and nurture, consumption and conservation, ideals and actions. Together, they evoke a mixture of hope, despair and soul-searching, encouraging viewers to consider the urgency of sustaining life on Earth for future generations.

Artists featured in this exhibition are Germaine Arnaktauyok, Iain Baxter&, Fernand Bergeron, Eleanor Bond, Edward Burtynsky, Sid Butt, Ken Danby, Randall Finnerty, Antonia Hirsch, Marilyn (Molly) Magid, Jimmy Manning, David Morris, Norval Morrisseau, Kim Ondaatje, Bruce Paton, David Rasmus, Michael Snow, Takao Tanabe, Joanne Tod, Chih-Chien Wang and Shirley Wiitasalo.

“Now that we can do anything, what will we do?”

- Bruce Mau

Awakening seeks to answer this provocative question, addressing climate change and action with a focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for encouraging people to think globally and act locally.

Featuring artworks from the Canada Council Art Bank collection, Awakening challenges our perceptions on the environment and our relationship with the world around us. Produced by Canadian and Indigenous artists from across the country over a span of nearly 50 years, the works that make up Awakening were selected for their power to generate both soul-searching and hope, and to ignite the thought and discussion we need to secure a peaceful and inclusive future for all.

Artists have always raised questions, generated dialogue and shown us new ways of thinking. As such, their works can be pathways to change. Awakening is a catalyst for a deeper awareness of the ways in which we have used the world so far and whether our approach needs to change.

About the Exhibit

In the spring of 2017, the Art Bank partnered with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario on an exhibition tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Entitled Awakening, the exhibition featuring 21 artworks from the Canada Council Art Bank collection was curated by Bruce Mau.

An international tour of Awakening brought these thought-provoking pieces to places where significant debates about the health and sustainability of the planet were taking place, providing new perspectives and keeping these issues top of mind. In 2019, the exhibition travelled to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, to the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, and to the World Conference Centre in Bonn for the United Nations Global Climate Conference. The supporting exhibition catalogue features essays by international luminaries, including the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, the President of the World Bank Group, and leaders of public and private organizations. Read now.

Awakening exemplifies the Canada Council’s commitment to connecting people, ideas and issues through the power of the arts with a view to provoking discussion and inciting reactions. It celebrates the work of Canadian and Indigenous artists, contributes to the global conversation about the environment and highlights how relevant issues can be made tangible and publicly engaging through the visual arts.

Learn more about the artists and artworks in the exhibition.

About the Curator

Bruce Mau is a Canadian-born, world-renowned designer, educator and author. He is currently the Chief Design Officer for Freeman—the world’s largest producer of trade shows and exhibits—and Co-Founder and CEO of the Massive Change Network, a global enterprise design consultancy based in the Chicago area.

Starting out as a graphic designer, Mau later focused on architecture, art, museums, film, eco-environmental design and conceptual philosophy. He has received a number of design awards and honorary degrees, including honorary doctorates from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Known as an innovator and visionary, Mau is dedicated to applying the power of design to transforming the world. He has written and/or designed more than 200 books.