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Workshops & seminars

The Crisis in Art in Canada: An inquiry into the state of the field

Hosted by Conversations in Contemporary Art

Date & time
Monday, October 25, 2021
6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Registration is closed


Zainub Verjee


This event is free



An examination of the state of the present crisis of art in Canada and the arts, its institutions, labour and the politics of its discourse.

How can you participate? Register for the Zoom webinar or watch live on YouTube.

Have questions? Send them to

Conversations in Contemporary Art is a free event series sponsored by Concordia University's Studio Arts MFA Program. The series provides a unique opportunity to hear artists, designers, critics, writers, educators, and curators share their practice(s) and perspectives.

This iteration is hosted in collaboration with EAHR | Media, a working group that seeks to connect faculty and graduate students across the university working at the intersections of ethnocultural art research, media, and digital art history.

Zainub Verjee

A Senior Fellow of Massey College and McLaughlin College Fellow, Zainub Verjee is the laureate of 2020 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution.  A thought leader, persuasive champion of arts and advocate for artists rights, Zainub Verjee has over four decades built a formidable reputation as an artist, writer, critic, cultural administrator and public intellectual in Canada and internationally.

An artist, writer, critic, with expertise in cultural policy and cultural diplomacy, she was at the forefront of the cultural policy work in the 1980s-2000s in Canada and internationally. A firm believer in Art as public good, she has worked on issues of Gender, Labour, Racial Equity, Culture Trade and Cultural Planning. She contributed to the international instruments of Culture - the status of artist and Cultural Diversity. Former Executive Director of Vancouver's Western Front during the 90s, her work on the BC Arts Board led to the legislation Bill 12 Art Council Act consequently leading to the formation of B.C.Arts Council. Similarly, her work on Vancouver Arts Initiative led to the first Cultural plan for the city and as the inaugural director at City of Mississauga she set up its Culture Division and developed its first Culture Master Plan.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Zainub Verjee was educated in England and immigrated to Canada in the early 1970s. Apart from her practice as a multidisciplinary artist, she is a programmer/curator, critic, writer, activist and arts administrator.   Zainub began her career in the Vancouver arts community of the 1970s, which was steeped in interdisciplinary, intermedia, and intercultural practices. As an annotator, she is engaged with different stakeholders to observe, critique and analyze the quotidian practices of the art and culture sector to actively work towards engaged public debate and conversations. Her work as a cultural bureaucrat, cultural diplomat, artist, activist and writer is consistent and contiguous with what might be termed a critical transversal aesthetic. 

Deeply engaged with the UK’s British Black Arts, Third Cinema and the post-Bandung decolonization, Tactical Video Movement, Zainub has been embedded in the history of women’s labour in British Columbia. In 1989, she co-founded and co-directed In Visible Colours— An InternationalWomen of Colour and Third world Women’s Film and Video Festival and symposium , widely and critically recognized as a foundational film festival in Canada. She received the National Film Board Fellowship in 1992 following the critical success of In Visible Colours as part of New Initiatives in Film for women of colour and aboriginal women. 

A sought after speaker, recently she delivered the Senior Fellow Lecture at the Massey College on the Massey Report and also, spoke on cultural diplomacy in a keynote address at the London, Asia, Art Worlds Conference hosted by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, a scholarly centre in London, U.K. Prior, she delivered a keynote at the Courtauld Institute of Art’s 1989 international conference. Following her co-authored an open letter to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Basic Income Guarantee on behalf of more than 75000 artists, she was invited by the Monash University as well as at the 19th North American Basic Income Congress to speak on Art and Basic Income among other avenues. Similarly, Her recent policy commentaries on Museum at a Crossroads in Galleries West Magazine; on Art Labour in Georgia Straight and on Art in International Relations in Sublime Horizons  generated a lot of traction.

Apart from her recent solo exhibition Speech Acts: Zainub Verjee at Centre A, Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art,  some of her recent exhibitions include group shows at the Royal Society of Canada and University of Alberta online exhibition 'art in the pandemic', Governor-General Award Winners Group Exhibition at Art Gallery of Alberta, and 'Hiding in Plain Sight' at Embassy Culture House, London, ON. Her artworks have been shown at the Venice Biennale, Museum of Modern Art, NY, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland US, Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie, France, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, México, D. F. (Mexico City, Mexico), and resides in private and public collections (Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada). 

In 2021, she was conferred with an honorary doctorate by OCAD University recognizing her exceptional contribution. For the years 2021 and 2022, she was appointed as a Mentor to the ActionCanada Fellows, a program of Public Policy Forum, Canada’s top accelerator of new leaders in public policy. 

Zainub was the executive director of the Western Front Society for the decade of 1990s. She held positions at Canada Council for the Arts, Department of Canadian Heritage and City of Mississauga. Currently, she is the executive director of Galeries Ontario/Ontario Galleries - – voice of Art Galleries and Museums in Canada. She tweets @zainubverjee


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