The passing of Jann Bailey has been met with sadness and remembrance, here in Kamloops, across Canada and around the world. Since 1987, she was the stalwart leader of the Kamloops Art Gallery. She will be missed.
Some would say her lasting legacy is the Kamloops Art Gallery at Fifth and Victoria. The beautiful space is a centrepiece of the downtown, providing space for large retrospective shows, intimate displays of emerging artists and places for creating and meeting. Kamloops gallery is world class. In the gallery, the people of Kamloops see not only the local, but the world as well.
Her drive and determination, plus her masterful understanding of how to get funding, ensured the art gallery was built and that it has had funding to sustain and grow its programs.
The gallery is a fantastic space, and if that was all that her legacy was, it would be enough. But as important as the gallery is, what is far more important is how Bailey helped to shape how Kamloops thought about itself, how it saw the world and how others saw Kamloops. People in Kamloops have a far broader, more inclusive view of the world because of Bailey.
Bailey continually supported the works of First Nations people from the local area and further afield. She gave space for First Nations’ people to tell their stories on their terms, whether through modern interpretations of traditional art forms or through display of national icons. Valuing their art, and letting them tell their stories has gone a long way in building reconciliation in our community between First Nations and non-First Nations people.
Giving people a voice and giving people a place to bring forward their ideas goes along ways in building understanding and trust between different people. The ongoing call by First Nations and others for an inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women is in part because they do not feel their voices have been heard. Certainly, the RCMP have done a report, but the people most affected want a different process.
Art is no different. If Bailey had ignored First Nation artists, our whole community would have been worse off. Bailey helped to bridge the gap between two communities and help us all value First Nations’ experiences and insights.
Bailey brought the world of art to Kamloops, and equally, took the artists of Kamloops to the world. From 15th Century European painters to Picasso, from B.C. legends Jack Shadbolt and Emily Carr to local artists Ted Harris and Andrea Kastner, all graced the walls of the gallery. Bringing both local and internationals art to Kamloops does two things. First, it makes Kamloops look beyond the local and become more cosmopolitan. Second, people start to value the local art more, and see that the ideas of Kamloops have value to the world.
By bringing world class art to Kamloops, Bailey made people in Kamloops feel connected to the rest of the world. She made us feel that Kamloops was not some backwater, provincial town, but a modern, forward thinking city linked to Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Hong Kong and Venice and beyond. By ensuring a place for local artists to put forward their work, she gave us confidence that what we thought, and how we saw the world was worthwhile, not just for ourselves, but for others as well.
Giving the space for voices to be heard is so important for understanding and to ensure it is not just the dominant scenario that is heard.
For the community of Kamloops, she helped to defined how we saw ourselves. And it was a positive thing. Bailey helped Kamloops see its self as connected to the wider world, concerned about building relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations. She brought outstanding art work from around the world to Kamloops, and showed that local artists were on equal footing.
Kamloops is a progressive city which has embraced the different people who make it home. It is confident while at the same time looking out to the larger world.
That is the legacy of Jann Bailey.
Thank you Jann, you will be missed.