Of the approximately 750 works in the University of Alberta’s Inuit art collection, almost 15% have come from one collecting couple. Milton Halvarson (1939-2019) was an Edmonton teacher, a school-board member and advocate of education. His final bequest of 46 pieces to the University of Alberta brings the total donated by himself and his wife Wendy (1941-2014) to 113 works.
These pieces are on display in the University of Alberta’s newest exhibition, A Collector’s Eye ᓄᐊᑦᑎᕙᑦᑑᑉ ᕿᓂᐅᓯᖓ: The Halvarson Gift of Inuit Art, offering students and art-loving members of the public a peek into the variety of art-making in the north. University of Alberta Curator Nadia Kurd says the new prints, sculptures and dolls have “really added to the diversity of objects in our collection.”
Among the works in the exhibit are several pieces from the late Pitseolak Ashoona, CM, RCA (1904-1983). One stonecut print shows a sealskin kayak in the midst of a group of women, whose nearby ulus (women’s knives) are testament to the years of practice and highly technical skills required to make such an important object.
Another feature is a stonecut and stencil print by William Noah called The Skeletoned Caribou (1973), which depicts the bones and muscles of a caribou in mid-stride, both revealing knowledge of the animal’s patterns of movement and highlighting its relevance as food source. The exhibit will offer viewers insight into the Edmonton Inuit Art Enthusiasts, a small cultural society of which Milton Halvarson was a member, which has played a big role in the appreciation of Inuit art in Edmonton.
The University’s collection is a mixture of contemporary pieces of Inuit art and a selection of older works, some of which are undated and could be quite ancient. While the monetary value of the Halverson’s donation is unknown, its breadth makes it a valuable addition to museum collections in Alberta.
A Collector’s Eye ᓄᐊᑦᑎᕙᑦᑑᑉ ᕿᓂᐅᓯᖓ: The Halvarson Gift of Inuit Art is showing at the U of A Museums Gallery A in the TELUS International Centre until December 14 2019.