June 13, 2013, KLEINBURG ON – The McMichael Canadian Art Collection has taken an exciting step toward expanding its role as a leading centre for the exhibition, preservation and documentation of Inuit art. On May 31, 2013, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, federal minister of state for science and technology, announced that the gallery and its project partners will receive more than $3.5 million dollars in funding over seven years from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to support a major project entitled “Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage: a multi-media/multi-platform re-engagement of voice in visual art and performance.”

The project aims to facilitate collaborative research on the contribution of Inuit visual culture, art and performance to Inuit language preservation, social well-being and cultural identity. The McMichael will contribute space and staff in order to compile a descriptive digital catalogue of up to 50,000 works from the collection of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (WBEC), increasing its public accessibility and promoting scholarship. The gallery will also host conferences and exhibitions, as well as collaborate with agencies in the north to develop youth programming.

In 1990, the McMichael accepted stewardship of the WBEC archives, comprising almost 100,000 drawings and prints, and a number of sculptures. The collection, which is fundamental to the project, constitutes a visual record of Inuit life, including folklore, material culture, and personal accounts.

Inuit art collector and former Vice-Chair of the McMichael Board of Trustees, Jamie Cameron, stressed the historical importance of the WBEC archives: “The collection is singular. There is no other collection like it. It is uniquely and distinctively Canadian. There is no parallel for this collection of drawings and prints by Cape Dorset artists.”

Funding for the project was awarded based on an application to the SSHRC by Dr. Anna Hudson, professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. The McMichael is a partner institution, along with the WBEC through Dorset Fine Arts, Nunavut Arctic College, Concordia University, Department of Education, Nunavut, Isuma Productions, and others. McMichael Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Victoria Dickenson, is a co-investigator on the project.

“The McMichael was a leader in the 1990s in partnering with the West Baffin Co-op to preserve the drawing archive,” said Dr. Dickenson. “Today McMichael will be a leader in making this archive available to residents of Nunavut and to the world, ensuring that the imagination of the artists of Cape Dorset will inspire young artists no matter where they live.”

Robert and Signe McMichael acquired their first piece of Inuit art in 1956 and since that time the gallery has continued to preserve and showcase the work of Inuit artists. On June 16, the exhibition Exploring Cape Dorset Art will close after more than four months on display. It includes both traditional and contemporary examples of Inuit drawing, sculpture, and printmaking. The upcoming SSHRC project marks an important new chapter in the McMichael’s long-standing relationship with the WBEC and recognizes the gallery’s expertise and commitment to Inuit art.

About the McMichael Canadian Art Collection

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is an agency of the Government of Ontario and acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. It is the foremost venue in the country showcasing the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. In addition to touring exhibitions, its permanent collection consists of almost 6,000 artworks by Canadian artists, including paintings by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists. The gallery is located on 100 acres of northern landscape and hiking trails at 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, north of Major Mackenzie Drive in the City of Vaughan.

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