This is the third year in a row that a Rhode Island College student has won a Fulbright.
Gabrielle Patrone ’23 has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright fellowship to study for nine months in Canada. Her fellowship officially begins Sept. 1, 2023, and ends June 6, 2024.
Patrone is the third RIC student in a row to be awarded a Fulbright and the first fellow from RIC to engage in research. Her research will focus on the beadwork of Western Canada’s Métis Nation, particularly, the techniques and personal narratives found in their beadwork, which have been passed down for generations.
A double major in art history (B.A.) and painting (B.F.A.)., Patrone’s interest in Indigenous art was sparked by her RIC art history courses.
“I realized how Eurocentric art historians have been, placing European paintings on the pedestal of ‘high art’ and labeling non-White art objects as ‘primitive,’” she says.
“I also saw how museum spaces tend to misrepresent Indigenous artwork and artists, taking their art out of its original context, reinforcing colonial perspectives or expectations, or neglecting to contextualize their works altogether. Both my coursework and my professors at RIC encouraged me to understand, empathize with and promote narratives and experiences that are different from my own,” says Patrone.
For three to four months, she will conduct research at Carleton University, while the remainder of her nine-month stay will be spent working with Carmen Robertson, the tier I Canada research chair in North American Indigenous art history and material culture. Robertson is a Scots-Lakota professor of art whose teaching centers on contemporary Indigenous art history and curatorial studies.
Robertson is an ideal mentor for Patrone who wants to become an art historian and curator herself. She will assist Robertson with her upcoming exhibit and symposium on Indigenous art and medicine in the fall of 2023 and help Robertson prepare an exhibit scheduled for 2025 at the Carleton University Art Gallery.
“It will be a great learning experience,’ says Patrone. “Dr. Robertson’s affiliation with renowned research teams and institutions, such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History and the Royal Ontario Museum, will introduce me to protocols required to curate and exhibit Indigenous artworks appropriately.” She adds that “this will generate new ways of thinking about, seeing and exhibiting Indigenous art.”
While her scholarly studies will undergird her research, Patrone believes that full immersion in Metis art and culture is critical. She intends to study the language of the Metis people – Michif – and volunteer with ArtsCan Circle, an organization dedicated to combating inequalities and the effects of colonialism in Canadian Indigenous communities.
“Ultimately,” she says, “I see this project as my first major step in participating in and helping to reshape the discourse on Indigenous artwork and decolonizing its representation in museum spaces.”