With artists across Inuit Nunangat struggling with gallery closures and cancelled projects, Nunavut Development Corporation is stepping up to help. To supplement artist’s incomes, they’re buying up art and have contracted sewers to make non-medical masks.
"We have a buyer in Iqaluit, NU, and a gallery,” says Goretti Kakuktinniq, NDC’s Cultural Industries Business Advisor; “we've been buying in Iqaluit mostly, but we look for the artists in Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, and different places, smaller communities in that area." Stone carving makes up the majority of what is currently being purchased, with the expectation that everything will be brought to market at a later date, when things are safer. Having the income now, though, gives artists some funds to weather an otherwise dry market.
In terms of the purchasing process itself, Kakuktinniq says they have taken steps to make the face-to-face interactions safer. “We’re taking appointments with artists to bring their art, so we control suppliers coming in and out,” to ensure proper physical distancing is in place.
Due to the increased need for personal protective equipment, NDC is working jointly with the Department of Economic Development and Transportation to produce non-medical masks for public use. According to a press release put out by the department, “the masks are made of cotton, are washable, re-usable and are made according to national standards and guidelines.”
Through Kiluk, NDC’s Arviat, NU, subsidiary specializing in textile production, they have ordered 5000 masks in the amount of $35,000. “We have approximately 20 people hired in the community,” just for this task says Kakuktinniq. Material is cut out in Kiluk’s Arviat facility, which the sewers then pick up and sew from home.
Kakuktinniq says it’s also a possibility that the operation could expand to other facilities, naming the Jesse Oonark Centre in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), NU, the Uqqurmiut Arts & Crafts Centre in Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), NU, and the Ivalu Centre in Kangiqlinq (Rankin Inlet), NU, as options. "We haven't gone there yet, but with how it's going right now, if we need to expand, we will."
In terms of future plans, Kakuktinniq wants to continue the sewing machine repair workshops begun last year, which saw NDC bring a repairman from Winnipeg, MB, to workshops in Arviat, Qamani’tuaq, Kangiqliniq, Salliq (Coral Harbour), NU, and Naujaat (Repulse Bay), NU. The next communities planned were Tikirarjuaq (Whale Cove), NU, and Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet), NU. NDC is also looking to put together a crochet workshop and hoping to develop a collaborative printmaking workshop with the Ulukhaktok Craft Centre in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT. “We’re planning for funding, we’ll see how it goes,” says Kakuktinniq, adding "we're hoping it will be done later in the year."