School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

A Portrait of Changes – Meet Linda Grussani

Cultural Studies PhD Candidate   

by Phil Gaudreau, March 2021

Linda Grussani

Acquiring, displaying and caring for Indigenous material culture has become a complex topic in recent years. Museums and galleries have a long and complicated history that have often excluded, underrepresented or misrepresented Indigenous art and culture.

Linda Grussani hopes to change this. Grussani is a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, a First Nation community located in Québec and daughter of an Italian immigrant.

Grussani is completing her PhD in Cultural Studies with a focus on Indigenous representation in museums. Her research examines the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History as a reflection of the changes to the exhibiting of Indigenous art in Canada.

"My research will allow me to situate, in a global context, the changes I have witnessed and contributed to as an arts professional working with a number of cultural institutions in the national capital region," says Grussani. "I believe that to learn and apply a new understanding of Indigenous history and relations, we must also learn from the problematic relationship between the museum and Indigenous people and cultures over time."

Grussani's interest in Indigenous art and culture in museums began when she was young and followed her through her post-secondary education. In her twenties, while also pursuing her masters of art in Canadian Art History, she became an intern at what was then known as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, completing the Aboriginal Training Program in Museum Practices. The experience also provided an opportunity to work with the National Gallery of Canada as an intern.

After completing her masters, she continued to work with the National Gallery of Canada in the Canadian art department. She later became one of the first employees to work in the newly formed Indigenous art department.

"I was very privileged to be able to work on three iterations of an installation that changed the face and narrative of the Canadian Galleries, applying and enacting the theoretical knowledge I had been working on throughout my master's program," says Grussani.

In 2009, while showcasing the Art of This Land installation at the National Gallery of Canada to a Queen's class, she was approached by Lynda Jessup – associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, who asked Grussani to continue her education at Queen's.

"I decided that Queen's was the right fit based on the interdisciplinary nature of the Cultural Studies program," says Grussani. "My area of research does not sit squarely in any of the traditional fields as it is located at the intersection of several domains of study."

Not ready to give her up passion for the museum, she decided to pursue her PhD part-time in conjunction with her curatorial assistant position. Balancing both work and academics became more difficult as work responsibilities became more demanding.

One year after completing her PhD coursework, Grussani was appointed Director of the Indigenous Art Centre for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC).  She managed the program for over three years before accepting an interchange assignment with the Canadian Museum of History to become curator of Aboriginal art.

"In 2019, after the three-year assignment with the Canadian Museum of History ended, I was at a crossroads and reluctant to return to another position within CIRNAC, knowing that would impact the momentum I had gained working in a research institution," says Grussani.

She made the decision to dedicate herself full time to her research and completing her PhD.

"I feel very fortunate to have worked with some of the most amazing collections in this country, but it was time for me to reflect on that experience and make the commitment to completing my degree," says Grussani.

Once Grussani has completed her PhD, she is interested in teaching or a career at a senior level in government.

"I would love to channel what I have learned into a teaching position, or I can see myself returning to a senior position in government or a crown corporation where I can enact and affect change," says Grussani.

To learn more about graduate studies options with the Department of Cultural Studies at Queen's, visit their website.