Fonds LA.SC171 - Elizabeth Chitty fonds

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Reference code



Elizabeth Chitty fonds


  • 1975-2021 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

88 cm of textual records
1563 photographs : 962 slides ; 306 prints ; 209 negatives ; 30 contact sheets ; 26 polaroids
237 photographs (jpg)
38 posters
9 technical drawings
4 objects
3 drawing
1 collage
2 audio discs (25 min.)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Elizabeth Chitty (1953-) is an interdisciplinary artist with a focus on performance, installation, video, sound, photography, and dance. She was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and completed an Honours B.A. in Fine Art, Modern Dance Major at York University in 1975. During her early career in the late 70s and early 80s, she quickly became a central figure in the Toronto and Vancouver performance art and New Dance scenes and was associated with artist-run centres 15 Dance Lab, A Space, and Art Metropole. Works created during this period, such as Mover (1975), Drop (1976), and Lap (1977) expanded the vocabulary of dance to explore force and linear movement, often to the point of emotional risk and violence. Using the movement of digital images, sound, and the body, Chitty addressed themes of information technology, media deconstruction, the grammar and syntax of performance, and feminism's relationship with sexual agency. She also experimented with video, producing single-channel video artworks (Telling Tales [1979]) as well as incorporating the use of both closed circuit and pre-recorded video in her performance works (History, Colour TV & You [1981]). In the late 80s she shifted her focus from staged, interdisciplinary solo performances to the creation of large-scale multimedia spectacles such as Moral/Passion (1985) and landscape-based installations such as Lake (1990). Inspired by her own Buddhist practice, many of her works have explored the relationship between the body and consciousness to question how we perceive the world, our thoughts, and emotions (Nature of the Body [1996]). In 1988, Chitty moved back to the Niagara Peninsula, where she has resided ever since. At this time, she began her long-standing involvement with Indigenous communities in the region and assisted with the development of the local community justice program, Winds of Change Women’s Drum Group. The community-based strategies and walking projects that have appeared in Chitty's artistic works since the 90s (Progress of the Body [1997], Earth's Flesh [2003], Daylighting [2016], Confluence Field Trips [2016], The Grass is Still Green [2017]) are a reflection of her reconciliatory work, as she considers water and its management, concepts of governance and ownership of public space, traditional territory, embodied knowledge, displacement, and historical and contemporary marginalized space and narratives.

In addition to her artistic practice, Chitty has also held roles as an arts administrator, educator, editor, and producer. From 1976-1978, she was the editor for Spill, a magazine published by 15 Dance Lab about the New Dance movement. She was the Chair of Trinity Square Video (1982), Managing Director of the Association of National Non-profit Artist-run Centres (1982-1984), Executive Director of St. Catharines and Area Arts Council (2004-2008), and Executive Director of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, Ontario Chapter (2008-2011). From 1991-2007, Chitty taught Creative Process at the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre. She was a video/media curator for Western Front (1980-1981) and went on to found Cultural Desire Projects (1985-1990) which produced major works by Chitty, Randy & Berenicci, Tanya Mars, and Vera Frenkel.

Chitty has performed and exhibited her work widely across Canada and also internationally in the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. Her video artworks Demo Model (1978), Telling Tales (1979), Desire Control (1981) and Dogmachine (1981), and T.V.Love (1982) are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. In 2017, her exhibition The Grass is Still Green was awarded "Exhibit of the Year" at the Ontario Association of Art Galleries' annual awards gala.

Archival history

The materials now constituting the Elizabeth Chitty fonds were transferred from Elizabeth Chitty to the Art Gallery of Ontario in October 2021.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

AGO Credit line: Gift of Elizabeth Chitty, 2022

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of documentation of Chitty's creative process as an interdisciplinary artist, including plans, notes, technical drawings of set designs, posters, promotional material, press, photographs, scripts, correspondence, grant materials, slides used during performances, and photographs of live performances and installations. Fonds also consists of professional records documenting Chitty's role as an arts administrator and curator with Cultural Desire Projects, Western Front, the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists, the St. Catharines and Area Arts Council, and ANNPAC; speaking notes pertaining to artist talks and conference presentations; as well as drafts and manuscripts pertaining to her editorial and writing work.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals may be expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is held by the creator or their heirs. Copyright belonging to other parties, such as that of photographs, may still rest with the creator of these items. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the fonds.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

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Finding aids

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Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 22 February 2023.


  • English



Archivist's note

Description prepared by Tam Rayan, 2022; uploaded by Amy Furness, 2023.

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