The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) announced a significant gift of $2 million to the Inuit Art Centre (IAC) from The North West Company (NWC) at a press conference in Winnipeg, MB, on June 12, 2019. This marks the first corporate sponsorship of the IAC from an organization with sustained, longstanding relationships with northern communities, bringing the current total of funds raised to $56 million.
“This gift will amplify Inuit voices, and ensure Inuit stories are told and heard,” explained the WAG in a press release.
The donation from the NWC, a retailer perhaps most well-known for operating the Northern and NorthMart stores across Inuit Nunangat, will fund the development of an outdoor community plaza adjacent to the Inuit Art Centre. Described as an “inviting welcome into the Centre,” the public space will host two permanent commissioned works by two Inuit artists to be unveiled at a later date.
“We are committed to strengthening communities,” President and CEO of The North West Company Edward S. Kennedy adds. “We see the Inuit Art Centre playing an important role towards this goal, for Inuit and other Indigenous peoples, for all Canadians and for people around the world who will be exposed to the IAC.”
Once completed in mid 2020, the 40,000 square-foot Centre will hold in trust the world’s largest public collection of Inuit art. With the addition of the NWC's gift, $9 million remains before meeting the fundraising target of $65 million for the structure, which will include exhibition spaces, studios, an enclosed glass vault and more. “I'd like to think of us as a bridge, as a forum, as a dialogue with the North and with Indigenous communities,” explains Dr. Stephen Borys, Director and CEO of the WAG about the IAC, while noting the museum hopes to secure the additional funds as soon as possible.
“I am delighted that my colleagues at The North West Company, and the company itself, have chosen to invest in this very important project,” noted lawyer H. Sanford Riley, Chair of the Board of Directors of The North West Company. “I feel it is imperative that those of us who work extensively in the North give back and support projects that can make a difference economically and culturally.”
As previously reported, the inaugural exhibition of the IAC INUA will be organized by a guest curatorial team including asinnajaq, Kablusiak, Krista Ulujuk Zawadski and Dr. Heather Igloliorte. Construction on the centre broke ground on May 25, 2018 and the steel framing for the four-storey structure will continue throughout the summer months, with the stone cladding expected to be installed in early fall 2019.
“The Inuit Art Centre is not only changing the WAG in terms of how we see ourselves in the community and what our role is, but it is offering new templates for the museum today: responding specifically to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and calls to action for what museums can be and should be,” Borys added. “And, who we impact.”