REDress installation returns to Queen’s campus

A red dress hanging on University Avenue. Photo by Owen Fullerton via LJI.

Upwards of 50 red dresses can be seen hanging along University Avenue and other areas of Queen’s University’s campus. 

They are part of an art installation that Queen’s has adopted for the second straight year in an effort to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit (Gender-Diverse) People on May 5, also known as Red Dress Day.

Last year, Queen’s had red dresses hanging on campus closer to the date itself, but decided to do so earlier this year so that more students would be on campus and able to engage with and learn about the installation and the issue it represents. 

Kandice Baptiste, Associate Director at Queen’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives, said it was important to move the date up so students can take in the installation and its message, and it seems students are doing so.

“We thought it was important this year to move it up into April so that students can also see the dresses,” Baptiste said. “We’ve found this year that our engagement online in particular has increased.”

She added that it’s critical for Queen’s students to have an understanding of issues plaguing Indigenous people as they move forward into their professional lives.

“I think it’s really important to know that the faculty and staff here go on to be leaders of their communities,” Baptiste said. “So, having an understanding of the lived realities of Indigenous people is important.”

The REDress installation was created by Jaime Black, a Winnipeg-based artist of mixed Anishinaabe and Finnish descent. It has been recreated and displayed in countless public spaces throughout North America over the course of more than a decade to represent the over 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. 

This year, Queen’s connected directly with Black, allowing them to expand the number of red dresses at their disposal and stretch the installation further throughout the campus, including on to west campus. Black also conducted an educational event on Zoom for students, and Baptiste said working alongside her this year was crucial to growing the installation and its overall reach within the community.

“One of the reasons we were able to expand so much was because we worked with her specifically to get more red dresses,” Baptiste said. “And have a better understanding of her vision for them.”

While this installation is tailored to those spending time on Queen’s campus, Baptiste said there is a goal in mind to further integrate efforts like this one with the broader Kingston community. She also noted that, this year, the school brought in an Indigenous counsellor from Sexual Assault Centre Kingston to give a presentation to help work towards that goal.

In the past, there has been more collaboration with community partners, and Baptiste says they hope to get back to that moving forward.

“I know that that’s a goal of ours to move forward,” Baptiste said. “That’s something that we will absolutely look forward to doing more of in the years to come.”

The school is trying to raise awareness for other Indigenous issues outside of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and will be marking the Moose Head Campaign during the month of May.

Owen Fullerton is a reporter based in Kingston with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).

2 thoughts on “REDress installation returns to Queen’s campus

  • What a waste. There are so many who go without and we flagrantly fly our affluence with perfectly good clothing to draw attention to another waste, a waste of life. We are overwhelmed with waste.

  • Good for Queen’s for marking this (ongoing) tragedy with the Red dress installation. If Queen’s gave a call out for donations of red dresses, I suspect they could triple the number. I would be happy to donate a clean, gently used red dress for the project. I am also glad an Indigenous counsellor is giving a presentation.

    Jerri J

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