An Introduction to Our New Reality
by Josephine Mills, Director/Curator

For those of us who are not occupied with the exhausting work of caring for people or keeping essential systems running, we have the opportunity to reflect on what future we would like to see when life returns to “normal.” I know I am not alone in recognizing that there are many things about the previous normal that I hope will change. Clearly there needs to be improved care of the elderly and that means better wages and working conditions for those who provide that care. I hope that the majority of people now recognize that the minimum wage should be a living wage because our lives depend on the people who provide food and care. Our previous normal included a lack of respect and understanding for Indigenous peoples by non-Indigenous peoples; accepting that the stock market and the ultra-wealthy 1% make the key decisions; buying things we don’t need and then throwing them into landfills; destroying the air, soil, and water that we, and every living being on this planet, need to exist; and believing that we cannot fix these problems. Trying to find solutions seemed overwhelming. Where would we start? How would we fit the work needed into our busy schedules? How would we get enough people to make the kind of radical change that is needed to save our planet?

Radical change in our daily lives has happened. People all over Canada and other privileged parts of the world are staying home. We are not flying. We are not going shopping. We are cooking our own food, planning gardens, considering every purchase we make. We are walking, playing, and talking. We are resting, recovering, grieving, and processing. We are engaging with art: we are reading, watching movies, and listening to music. And we are creating: we are painting, drawing, playing instruments, singing, dancing, making videos, and writing.

I hope that the extraordinary potential that is arising from this crisis can grow, that we can learn from the pain and loss from the pandemic, and that we can work together to build a better “normal.” As one small step towards this goal, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery is creating a new section on our website where we will pay artists to present projects that are specifically designed for digital platforms and the gallery staff will produce material that provides insight into their work processes. This new section will support people in pausing, reflecting, and acting. We want to be part of a network that works to alter the course of climate change, maintains connections between diverse people, learns from Indigenous knowledge and perspectives, and fosters civil public discourse.