Building on the early success of the Inuit Art Quarterly, published independently beginning in April 1986, the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF) was incorporated on June 3, 1987 as a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the work of Inuit artists across Canada. The IAF was created after extensive stakeholder consultation with both Inuit and non-Indigenous Canadians to fulfill multiple needs, which still inform its operations and programming today: to provide access to the work being produced across the north; to provide a dedicated platform for discussions of art by Inuit; to provide direct support to artistic development; and to serve as an advocate for the needs and interests of Inuit artists throughout Canada. Though the IAF announced its closure in 2012, the support for the IAF from the field was so great that it was revived immediately and began operating again in 2013. The IAF is led by Inuit, who have filled the majority of positions on its board since 1994.
Over its thirty-one year history, the IAF’s flagship program has always been publishing the Inuit Art Quarterly (IAQ). As the only magazine dedicated to the advancement and appreciation of Inuit and circumpolar Indigenous arts, the IAQ serves as the publication of record for Inuit artists and is the primary way for the public at large as well as Inuit artists themselves to have access to the innovative, evolving artistic practices of Inuit within Canada. The IAQ’s impact has been substantial: academic courses on Inuit art have been structured around the IAQ as a core text; profiled artists have been approached for exhibitions and commissions after publication; and both artists and galleries report that sales increase based on the content of the magazine. The IAQ also provides one of the few sustained ways of profiling Inuit voice to the broader public through published interviews, authored articles and through featured artistic works. The IAQ achieved a major milestone in 2016 with the release of its special issue dedicated to Nunatsiavut, the first issue ever edited by an Inuk and to sell out.
The IAF also provides support to Inuit through professional development support. The IAF offers a copyright services support program since 1998 to assist artists in actively controlling how their work is reproduced and has offered targeted professional development training and workshops since 1991, connecting artists with critical information about how to compile portfolios, manage artist associations and navigate the business of being an artist, as well as offering hands-on training with stone quarrying and teaching emerging artists. The IAF also awards substantial scholarships to assist Inuit further their artistic careers: The Watt Scholarship, established in 1996 to assist Inuit in furthering their post-secondary education in the arts while the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, established in 2014, supports an artistic residency for an established artist.