Ottawa site of pan-Arctic Inuit art gathering

Inuit art groups compare experiences


This week in Ottawa, the Inuit Art Foundation hosted what may have been the first pan-Arctic gathering of regional Inuit art organizations.

Marybelle Mitchell, the foundation’s executive director, said it was the first time that people from many of these groups have had a chance to meet face-to-face to talk about common issues.

“Today [this past Tuesday] was spent mostly in information sharing,” Mitchell said in an interview.

Mitchell said that 20 years ago, the Hudson’s Bay Co. and the co-operatives were the only two organizations concerned with marketing Inuit art.

But now, regional and local Inuit art organizations are springing up all over the Arctic.

These include the long list of arts organizations who sent representatives to the gathering: the Akubliriit Arts Society, Baker Lake; Avataq Cultural Institute, Montreal; Makivik Corporation; Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association; Torngasok Cultural Centre, Nain, Labrador; Uqqurmiut Centre, Pangnirtung; and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, Cape Dorset.

As well, northern artists were represented by Mattiusi Iyaituk of Ivujivik, who is the president of the Inuit Art Foundation, and by board member Gayle Gruben of Inuvik.

She said their common issues include copyright, a shortage of materials, training and development, quality control, and the need for procedures to deal with the growing number of requests for Inuit artists to travel internationally.

Delegates also took part in a discussion with Viviane Gray, the director of the Inuit Art Centre at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, on the igloo tag labelling system that’s used to show that Inuit art is “authentic.”

Another subject was the Inuit Art Centre’s decision to stop distributing artist’s biographies to art dealers, a practice that some dealers fear don’t like because it makes it harder to market Inuit art.

Mitchell said it’s likely that the foundation will produce a report with recommendations after they digest what they heard at this week’s meeting.

The Ottawa-based Inuit Art Foundation was formed in 1986 to help Inuit artists develop their skills and sell their work.

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