Tom Hill, a Champion for Indigenous Artists
~ A champion for Indigenous artists – Woodland Culture Centre mourns the passing of Tom Hill ~
Brantford, ON — The staff of Woodland Cultural Centre is mourning the loss of former Museum Director Tomas Vernon Hill, who passed away on November 11, 2023 at the age of 80.
Tom was instrumental in creating paths for Indigenous artists and cultural workers. He began his career as a champion of First Nations arts at the Expo ’67 Indians of Canada Pavilion and then went on to work at the National Gallery of Canada and several other positions within the federal government.
In the early 1980’s, Tom returned to his Six Nations home to become the Museum Director at Woodland, a position he held for decades until his retirement. While there, he curated numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, often stepping back from the spotlight to help other Indigenous artists receive the exposure he felt they so richly deserved.
Throughout his time at Woodland, Tom continued to work on the promotion of Indigenous art and artists nationally. He was one of the chairs and principal authors of the 1992 Taskforce on Museums and First Peoples, which redefined the relationship between museums and Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“He was so instrumental in creating paths for Indigenous artists and cultural workers, many which were not open, until he managed to walk in both worlds,” says Janis Monture, who served as Executive Director of Woodland before becoming the CEO of the Canadian Museums Association.
Perhaps his greatest legacy however, is his character. “Tom’s work locally and nationally reflected who he was as person,” notes Heather George, Executive Director of Woodland. “He was collaborative, kind, open and inclusive.” Naomi Johnson, formerly the Art Curator of Woodland, agrees: “He genuinely had a love of life and was curious about people of all walks, and showed equal levels of respect and consideration for everyone.”
Woodland extends its sympathies to all those who have been touched by Tom. In lieu of flowers, his family asks those wishing to celebrate his life and legacy consider donating to the Woodland Cultural Centre. A more in-depth memorial will be posted on the Woodland website in the days to come.
Woodland Cultural Centre is a leader in the preservation and celebration of Indigenous traditional knowledge and cultural heritage and is a resource, both nationally and internationally, for cultural Education, Museology, Arts, Languages and Histories for everyone to enjoy. For updates on events and exhibition programming, please visit woodlandculturalcentre.ca or our social media platforms.