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Nunatsiavut Comes to Downtown Toronto with New Jessica Winters Mural

Jan 24, 2024
by IAQ

Toronto pedestrians will once again have the opportunity to see Inuit art on a massive scale with the January 24 unveiling of Jessica Winters’ mural Hopedale (2023), a loving celebration of the land and people that make up the artist’s concept of home rendered in vivid blues and greens.

Originally commissioned by the Bonavista Biennale 2023 in partnership with the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF), Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq / Pijariuqsarniq Project and the Ontario College of Art And Design University’s Onsite Gallery, Hopedale was first installed at the oceanside site of Quentin Premises in Red Cliff, NL, as part of the Biennale, which was co-curated by Ryan Rice and Rose Bouthillier. It appears now as the fifth installment of the Up Front public art series, a collaboration between the IAF and Onsite Gallery that is also curated by Ryan Rice, who serves as Onsite’s Executive Director and Curator of Indigenous Art as well as a member of the IAF Board of Directors. 

The mural is being unveiled at during the joint opening of two exhibitions at Onsite Gallery: Taqralik Partridge’s solo show ᐳᓛᖃᑎᒌᑦ (Pulaaqatigiit) (2024), which is curated by IAF Board Member Linda Grussani, and group show power (2024), which is curated by Lisa Deanne Smith. Hopedale will hang on the outside wall of the gallery at 199 Richmond Street West in downtown Toronto until the end of April.

Winters is a multidisciplinary artist, biologist and curator from Makkovik, Nunatsiavut, NL, currently based in St. John’s, NL. Her artistic practice began with drawing before transitioning to paint, printmaking and other materials. Winters’ painted work often focuses on translating regular instances of Inuit life into something profound or nostalgic, with subjects drawn from memory, intense curiosity and the deep connection she has made to place and community through her lived experience.

“Now that I’ve lived in the South for a bit, it gives me a new perspective on how unique it is to live up North,” Winters said about the mural, which arose after a trip to Hopedale, Nunatsiavut, NL. Winters was amazed to see school letting out when she was visiting the community, and it ultimately inspired this piece: “The school bell rang and all the kids ran out to play, running and rolling around the hills, totally carefree….that’s what the mural is basically: these kids playing.” Winters also made a point of adding actual houses from Hopedale into the piece, “so that people in Hopedale knew who it was and where it was.”


Jessica Winters
Hopedale (2023)

Winters is known for her work on public art, taking part in the Wish 150: Newfoundland and Labrador Cod Mosaic in 2019 and in 2020 completing the first large-scale mural in Nunatsiavut alongside four student interns. Among other accolades, in 2022 Winters received the Hnatyshyn Foundation William and Meredith Saunderson Prize for Emerging Artists and the NL Arts and Letters Senior Visual Arts Award. In 2023 her work was featured in the group exhibition Coming Into Sight at the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa, ON, as well as the two-artist exhibition Surfacing alongside Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona at Feheley Fine Arts in Toronto, ON.

Hopedale is a testament to [Winters’] exceptional ability to capture the profound and sublime energies inherent in the living entities of the remote and familiar environments she explores,” said Rice. “Through her creative process, Winters skillfully paints the nuances and vibrancy of Nunatsiavut communities and their people, offering a collective sense of joy and belonging that depicts a new cultural geography.”

The Up Front series began with 2023 Sobey Art Award Winner Kablusiak’s pink ookpiks from April to November 2022, moved to the Inuit-inspired tattoo art of Kyle Natkusiak Aleekuk from November 2022 to March 2023 and later to Robert Kautuk’s sky-high photography from March to September 2023. Most recently it played host to 2021 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award Winner Tarralik Duffy’s bright soda cans. Following Winters’ turn, the next mural in the series will be from multidisciplinary artist Glenn Gear.

Up Front is made possible with the support from the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Arts and Culture Partnership Fund and the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts.


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