I’ve noticed time and time again in my travels that people tend to overlook or take for granted some of the most remarkable things they could experience in their own backyard. Most native New Yorkers have never visited Liberty Island. How many born-and-raised Torontoans make the trek up the CN Tower? Now imagine having to travel a thousand miles from home to get a new insight into your own cultural heritage.
I dare say that few Winnipeggers realize that our city can boast the largest, and arguably the finest, collection of contemporary Inuit artwork in the world. A collection that we might take for granted or not even be aware of, that Northern Canadians have few chances to explore and enjoy.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is home to a permanent collection of 13,000 Inuit sculptures, paintings, drawings, and works on cloth. Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, is a new exhibit which features 115 defining works from the gallery’s permanent collection. Organized chronologically, the exhibit guides the viewer through over six decades of evolution in contemporary Inuit art.
Marie Bouchard, a grants coordinator with The Winnipeg Foundation, lived and worked in Baker Lake, Nunavut as an art historian and art dealer for 11 years.
“Most people don’t realize the strong connection between Winnipeg and the Central Arctic,” says Bouchard. “A lot of Inuit and Northern Canadians visit Winnipeg on a regular basis for medical reasons and to shop. Their art is their legacy. They transfer knowledge and perspective through their art.”
“An exhibit like this would be next to impossible to organize in the North,” says Bouchard. “This exhibition, of such a large scale and scope, gives the average person an overview of what we call ‘Inuit Art,’ but this also gives visiting Inuit people a valuable opportunity to get a sense of their own art history and their contribution to Canadian Art.”
For those of you who love art, the exhibition is probably pinging on your cultural radar already. But for those of you unfamiliar with the art world, the exhibit presents an exciting chance to familiarize yourself with the fascinating and powerfully imaginative work of our nation’s finest Inuit artists. Curated by WAG Curator of Inuit Art, Darlene Coward Wight, the exhibition is part of WAG’s 2012-2013 centennial celebrations. The gallery was opened in 1912 as the first civic art gallery in Canada.
If you’ve never taken the opportunity to learn more about Inuit art and Canada’s indigenous cultures, to visit the WAG, heck, to visit a gallery, Creation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art runs Jan. 25 through Apr. 14. Take advantage of the opportunity. It may well be a transformative experience.