In an announcement today, Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox has confirmed the provincial government will provide funding to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre, a first-of-its-kind cultural landmark aiming to bridge Canada’s North and South. Cox announced $10 million would be contributed over five years. These funds will support contributions already promised by the federal government and the City of Winnipeg ($20 million and $5 million, respectively).
The WAG has waited more than a year for this decision. In 2015 the province committed $15 million in funding to the construction of the Inuit Art Centre, but a 2016 change in government put that commitment in jeopardy. In August of this year Premier Brian Pallister’s government told the WAG it would know by the end of the month whether or not the previous government’s pledge would be upheld. That date was then shifted to the end of December.
Although the allocated funds fall $5 million short of what Manitoba’s previous government promised, WAG Director and CEO Stephen Borys is pleased with the outcome.
“The Province of Manitoba’s commitment to the Inuit Art Centre is a major step forward,” Borys said in a statement. “We thank the province and look forward to working with the government and the community to ensure the WAG continues to serve all Manitobans using art to connect, inspire and inform.”
The 40,000-square-foot Inuit Art Centre will house the WAG’s collection of over 13,000 pieces of Inuit art and offer learning programs delivered by Indigenous instructors. But the proposed Centre is more than a gallery and an artist resource; the Centre also presents an opportunity for the WAG to set a new standard for museum engagement with Indigenous peoples and their art and culture. The Inuit Art Quarterly previously reported on the Inuit Art Centre and its potential in the Inuit art world in our Summer 2017 issue on museums.
The confirmation of funding comes on the heels of the announcement of the guest curatorial team that will lead the inaugural exhibition calendar for the Centre. Dr. Heather Igloliorte, Assistant Professor, Art History and University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement at Concordia University, made the announcement on December 1 at the Initiative for Indigenous Futures’ 3rd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary. Igloliorte will be one of the curators, along with Asinnajaq (Isabella Weetaluktuk), a visual artist, filmmaker and writer featured in our Fall 2016 issue; Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter, a multimedia artist profiled in our Winter 2017 issue, on newsstands now; and Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, Government of Nunavut Curator of Inuit Art. Each curator represents a different region of Inuit Nunangat.