My research focuses on visual and material culture—including art, exhibitions, and cultural institutions. Current projects encompass a range of topics from contemporary video art and artists’ labour unions to the international circulation of exhibitions, curatorial networks, and cultural diplomacy.
Trading on Art: Cultural Production in the New North America
This book takes on the task of revising the dominant perception that culture is absent from free trade histories. Trading on Art: Cultural Production in the New North America brings together a series of understudied exhibitions to argue that art was in fact used to promote the seeming inevitability of North American unity in the late twentieth century. The book also suggests the significance of contemporary art production in the period, revealing how contemporary artists engaged with, debated, and reflected on free trade in their work. Trading on Art will be published by the University of British Columbia Press.
Making Art Work: The Independent Artist’ Union and the Demand for a Living Wage
This book (co-authored with Greig de Peuter at Wilfrid Laurier University) addresses the work and impact of the Independent Artists’ Union (IAU). Active in Ontario in the 1980s, the IAU was a labour organization of visual artists who worked to establish collective bargaining rights by framing the government as artists’ employer. Drawing on oral history interviews and archival research, we chart the group’s trajectory, including the limitations of the IAU’s objective to achieve a living wage and their efforts to advance equity in the art world.
Exhibiting International Values: The Cultural Diplomacy of UNESCO’s Museums Division
This study (funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant), examines the longstanding role of museums as cultural envoys in the global sphere, providing necessary context to the current cultural diplomatic role of museums in Canada and abroad. My research focuses on the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Museums Division, which since the end of the Second World War has played a central role in coordinating museum work internationally.
North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative
A great deal of my research is collaborative and undertaken with the North American Cultural Diplomacy Initiative (NACDI), a research network that I co-founded in 2017. This is a multi-disciplinary partnership of academics, policymakers and practitioners in the field of cultural diplomacy (CD) from North America and beyond. Our objective is to advance new scholarship and research that provides greater understanding of how CD functions to connect North America globally; not merely as part of the “soft power” tool-kit of nation states, but as a multi-directional and potentially activist practice that encompasses a broad range of non-state actors, including cultural institutions, managers, producers, consumers and communities seeking to imagine counter-hegemonic possibilities and inclusive futures. Current NACDI projects include The Cultural Relations Approach to Diplomacy: Practice, Players, Policy (funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant) and Museums: Diplomats of the 21st Century (funded by a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant).