Putting the “International” back in International Museum Day

International Museum Day, this year falling on May 18th, brought into focus for me the importance of making connections between museums across the world. Sure, we could all celebrate in our own museums close to home, but what about moving beyond that? Museums, galleries and other cultural institutions are an excellent resource for getting in touch with your own community as well as encounter the wider world.

Exhibition view.

The Campbell River Art Gallery debuted the exhibit Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art on May 9th, making it truly an international museum. The show has travelled across Canada since 2016, broadening its reach even further. The Museum at Campbell River is also highlighting a month-long artist exchange with Indonesian artist Ipong Purnama Sidhi, currently happening on Quadra Island.

Visitors are encouraged to write letters directly to the artists.

The work that Humam Alsalim at the Cyrrus Gallery has done in concert with Paul Crawford and the Penticton Art Gallery to amplify the voices of the 20 featured Syrian artists speaks to the critical role that museums play as an intermediary for artists and art lovers, cultures and continents. This kind of international collaboration can be impactful on a micro or macro scale. Getting to know the artists, even in a small way such as sending a letter halfway across the world (there are pencils and paper waiting for you in our main gallery!) makes a museum more than just a place to exhibit art – a space for people to enjoy art and connect with it, not just a place to display it.

This exhibit is certainly a feat to celebrate. We hope that you visit and celebrate museums with us all year round. What museums have you visited internationally? Which ones are at the top of your list to visit next?