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We Hear You!

29 Jul

In my last post, I explained that for the last several weeks we have been flying panel-less in the museum as we overhaul our permanent and special exhibition spaces. It’s been very interesting to have the art on display with little to no information around it. We asked our visitors for their reactions and to let us know what content they would like to see in our interpretive panels when they are reinstalled. We just tallied the results (thanks, Sofia!) and they were definitely enlightening. I want to take a few moments to talk about some of the most recurring themes and how we’re addressing them.

A suggestion box in the museum

One of our suggestion boxes inside the museum

1. Questions about materials were the most prevalent (behind people very nicely expressing enjoying the museum). This ranged from general questions, like “What materials are used?” to the very popular “What type of stone is used?”. Each of our individual object labels include the medium of the work, but they’re fairly general (like “stone” or “ivory”). A number of our new changes will actually help to answer these questions more fully. For example, we just installed a narwhal tusk as an interactive, touchable element to the permanent exhibition so visitors can get a better sense of what the material is actually like. Additionally, we will be addressing this in the interpretive panels more clearly, especially in our regional diversity case. Working with the local land claim governments and co-operatives, we’re compiling quarry maps to show where major stone deposits are located – so look for that soon.

Installing the narwhal tusk in the museum

Technician Lucy and I installing the narwhal tusk interactive

2. Emphasis on diversity. A number of visitors suggested changes that relate to diversity, such as wanting different kinds of artwork displayed (like more prints or beadwork) or wanting to see more about regional diversity. This is one of our top goals (which is really another post for another time): we are retooling all of our individual object labels to get to these questions more clearly. I am also the most excited to see us install a section in our regional diversity cases for art from Nunatsiavut (more on that later, too). There are some practical limits, though, that we have to contend with. Light sensitive materials, like prints and beads, can only be placed in certain parts of the museum so we’re working on more creative solutions to this as well.

3. Questions about subject matter and artistic intention. Another frequent request was for information directly related to Inuit culture and beliefs and how they relate to the artwork and/or artistic intention. We’re working on a longer-term solution to this, as well as some short-term ones. One thing we’re very aware of is that we’re not an anthropological museum, but an art museum and so a major focus of the renovation has been to try to create opportunities for the art to be considered as artwork. That said, cultural context is hugely important and so is integrating the artists’ voices into the displays. Look for many more direct quotes next to works, or even videos and audio recordings for select works.

4. Accessibility concerns. You’ve told us that our existing labels are too hard to read, and we agree. That’s why we’re gradually rolling out all new ones that will be larger and have higher contrast so no one needs to strain to read the information.

There’s still time to send us your input on what you’d like to see addressed in our exhibition spaces, so please let us know!

-Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Curator


Where’s All The Information?

25 Jun
Updated Museum Display

Updated Museum Display

If you’ve been to the museum or visited our website recently, you will probably have noticed that we’ve been making a lot of changes. First, we upgraded our website with the help of our wonderful volunteer Kyle; then, we initiated an upgrade of our permanent exhibitions. This is a long process that was, quite honestly, long overdue: in the six years that we’ve been open, our permanent exhibitions have stayed largely static: we’ve added and removed works, we’ve added and removed interpretive information, but the bulk of the layout, objects and information remained the same.

At the same time, we have learned quite a lot about our visitors thanks to visitor evaluation, six years of programming and lots of exhibitions. So, using that information we’ve undertaken a total overhaul of our permanent exhibition spaces. We’ve re-opened our newly renovated exhibitions and I’ll be explaining elements of our decision-making process over the next few weeks. But if you do visit, you may notice that one element of our exhibitions is conspicuously absent: our interpretive information panels.

Museum Exhibitions

Where are all the panels?

That’s not an accident and it’s not permanent. We’ve decided to keep the interpretive panels off the wall for a short period of time to get your input before we finalize what will be on the wall. I have a lot of things I can say about our collection, but I want the chance to know what exactly you want to know. Do you want to know information about the subject matter? About the materials? About the process of art making? About the Arctic environments? The possibilities are endless.

So now is your chance to have your voice heard and incorporated into our permanent collections! We have comment boxes for this input inside the museum, or you can send us an email/leave a comment/etc. So, if you’ve been wondering where all of the contextual information it, it’s coming – but only with your help!

- Posted by: Alysa Procida, Curator

Worldwide Knit in Public Day!

5 Jun

IMG_3376   MIA front lobby podium covered in crochet hexagons to celebration of Worldwide Knit in Public Day.

June is a pretty big month here at MIA. This coming Saturday we will officially be reopening our doors to welcome in brand new exhibitions featuring even more examples of art styles, materials, and themes. We’ll also be celebrating National Aboriginal History Month with fun games and prizes AND we’ve just launched another community based project with local Toronto knitting groups (including the Bissell Bombers) as part of  World Wide Knit in Public Day!

For those unfamiliar with WWKiP Day, it all began back in 2005 when Danielle Landes gathered together a group of knitters. Rather than perform this traditionally solitary practice alone, they created an opportunity to spend some time together and really get to know their neighbors. That desire for human interaction and creative outlet inspired others to join and over the following years a simple day of knitting has turned into a global public art movement.

This Saturday and Sunday, MIA will be hosting knit inspired programming in our newly renovated space. From 12-4 visitors can join our Arts Assistants who will be giving demonstrations on the several different methods of pom pom making and how to create a bracelet with needle-less knitting techniques.

Special community exhibition case be prepared for visitor contributions as a part of Worldwide Knit in Public Day celebrations.

All of these yarn creations can be tokens of a fun day spent knitting out in public, or you can have them displayed in our special exhibition area. For the entire month of June, MIA has dedicated a public curated space to showcase the unique talent within the community. Those who wish to participate by bringing supplies and taking part of our Knit in Public activities receive FREE admission.

Hope to see all you crafters this weekend!

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

MIA’s AR FAQ (and a bunch of other letters) explained

17 Jul

In my past AR blog post I wrote about how other museums were using AR (augmented realty), and showed you a few clips of the crazy things people have been creating with this type of technology. But I have yet to explain how MIA will be taking this brand new technology and giving our exhibits a bit of a twist. Today’s blog is all about how MIA has envisioned our first steps into this augmented world…

The MIA’s mandate is concerned with both preserving the objects we hold in public trust and educating that public about the culture and people those objects came from. And the public we serve is not necessarily limited to only those visitors who can physically enter our space, we have also reached out to an online public through our social media platforms.

Supplementing traditional museum practices with new technology has allowed us to both reach a larger audience and expand points of access that people can approach the collection from. While not everyone currently owns a smartphone and therefore won’t be able to take advantage of the AR we have running now, smartphones are becoming more and more popular as mobile companies create increasingly affordable data plans and the price of the phones themselves decrease. It’s not hard to image that in the future smartphones (or something even more high tech) will become the mobile standard.

Incorporating AR into our exhibits is not about being flashy and following trends. We’re really dedicated to offering more options on how to view and interact with our collection. All the different points of access MIA has available allows for the visitor to create their own experiences and connect with the collection on a more personal level. Just as some people might not want to read text panels, some people might not want to wave their phone over an entire collection – but the choice is there to be made.

Our current AR channel for the MIA’s latest exhibition Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 includes additional paintings, audio interviews of the artist, and images of his working process. And all smartphone uses have to do is follow these simple steps:

  1. Through your smartphone market place, download the free Junaio Augmented Reality application
  2. Open the app and scan this special QR code
  3. Select the channel MIA Christian Morrisseau New Directions Exhibit
  4. Slowly wave your phone across various Christian Morrisseau paintings to reveal extra content

Ta da!

Curious to see what else you can find hidden in the digital relm?
You can checkout the Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 exhibition on now in our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery.

- posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA Visitor Services Officer

New Gallery, New Installation!

8 Jul

Getting our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery set up for a new exhibition!

Exciting exhibition news! This week marks the beginning of both a new gallery AND a new installation at MIA!

In a few days we will officially be opening Christian Morrisseau: New Directions 2010-2012 in our new Aboriginal Voices Gallery, but in the meantime we thought it would be pretty cool to show you how we’re setting everything up.

Some of our “Tweet Peeks”. Can you guess what some of these images are?

In case you missed our Tweets and Facebook updates, the first step in our installation process was to tease you all with photos. We even made up a game where we show you a close up image of one of Christian Morrisseau’s paintings and have you guess what kind of woodlands creature it might be. A few of you got the right answers, but now it’s time to more or less officially reveal exactly what we’ll be exhibiting.

Our latest installation features the work of Woodlands artist Christian Morrisseau and represents an important moment in his artistic career. As the son of legendary painter Norval Morrisseau, Christian was introduced to painting by prepping the background scenes for his father. Years later, his contribution to the Woodlands School comes from not only continuing his father’s legacy examining the use of colour in Aboriginal art. This MIA exhibition has grouped several of his works into colour combinations – each representing a different theme such as family or healing.

Movers installing “Bringing Kyle Home” (2012) by Christian Morrisseau, Keewaywin, acrylic on canvas, Private Collection on loan to MIA

And these paintings are HUGE!
So big in fact that we couldn’t put all of Christian’s colour themed paintings together in one place – well, at least not in one physical space…
Which leads us to another thing we here at the museum have been teasing our readers about.
Remember how weeks and weeks ago I, your pesky intern, started dropping hints about a new tech toy we had been experimenting with? Well, this exhibition will be the first time that MIA incorporates AR (Augmented Reality) into our exhibitions!!

Since Christian’s paintings are so big and we wanted to make sure you got a chance to see as many you could, we’re using AR to display virtual versions of his work. As you move throughout the exhibition, you’ll be able to wave your smartphone in front of his paintings and access additional works from his colour series, audio interview clips between Christian Morrisseau and MIA staffer Alysa Procida, and progress images that show his painting process.

While we’re still setting up the space you’ll be able to watch as we do the heavy lifting in order to get the physical space all set up for the show. For more images be sure to visit our Flickr page and brand new Instagram account (our username is miamuseum).

Movers installing “Keewaywin First Nation Chief Joe Meekis” (2012) by Christian Morrisseau, Keewaywin, acrylic on canvas, Private Collection on loan to MIA

- Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Two Of These Things Are Not Like The Others… And Just Like Each Other

17 Aug

Today, MIA installed a two new objects into the museum’s permanent display case focusing on the depictions of animals in Inuit art. Every new arrival is important and exciting, but these two are extremely interesting because they are suspiciously similar to each other. Here is the updated display case:

A portion of MIA's permanent display focusing on animals.

Can you tell which objects I’m talking about? Here’s a close-up:

MIA's newest objects: Pitsiulak Qimirpik's "Owl" (2009) on the left and Suati Atsiaq's "Owl" (2011) on the right

As you can see, the owl on the right looks like a green, miniature version of the owl on the left. So why is that so interesting? Because it illustrates something the museum often mentions but is very difficult to display: how artists learn how to carve.

Pitsiulak Qimirpik, whose larger “Owl” is on the left, is Suati Atsiaq’s father (who goes by his mother’s last name). Suati is currently 15 years old and his father is teaching him how to carve. We often talk about how artists in the North do not have formal artistic training but rather are taught by family or community members, which is one reason that communities have fairly identifiable styles. It’s a fairly difficult point to illustrate, though – we show in our regional display cases, for example, that community styles are similar and that artists like Karoo Ashevak can have significant influences over what is produced. However, to see an example this direct is extremely rare and we are very excited to display the pieces.

You can see the differences between the pieces if you look carefully: besides the obvious differences in height and color of stone, Pitsiulak’s lines are a bit smoother, while Suati’s eyes are bit rounder. If this is any indication, though, Suati has a very bright future sculpting ahead of him. He is the youngest artist to be displayed in the museum and we look forward to seeing how his style evolves, which will no doubt be at least partially influenced by lessons like these that he’s learning now.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Sedna Speaks

13 Jun

Today marks the official opening of our newest special exhibition, The Sea Goddess, which features a variety of contemporary interpretations of the Inuit Sea Goddess. One of these sculptures is an impressive piece by Alec Lawson Tuckatuck, an innovative sculptor from Nunavik, called Sedna Speaks.

"Sedna Speaks" (2011) by Alec Lawson Tuckatuck (Kuujjuaraapik), Stone, Caribou antler, MIA Collection (photo courtesy of the artist)

His piece specifically relates Sedna to a pressing problem facing the Arctic: climate change. He says:

This is a transformation piece based on our legend of Sedna who is our Sea Goddess. Sedna controls our weather and animals in the waters, she is powerful being that we believed that we had to please and give signs of respect to for us to be able to hunt, catch and eat. It was believed that anyone who wasted food that came from Sedna’s offering would be punished for example by starvation, people who polluted the waters or disrespected it would receive another form of punishment like bad weather. Traditional beliefs in Sedna’s powers were part of every day and every moment decisions, people were reported and given warning if they were seen not respecting our land, water or animals. So it was, and still exists today somewhat, a practice by Inuit to always make use of every usable parts of animals, to catch food only as much as you need, to give offerings as signs of respect, to not take things for granted, etc.

This is a Global Waming and Climate Change awareness piece. Sedna is transforming from a Narwhal whale coming out of the water and the green tusk speaks for Sedna. There are many versions of this legend, long beautiful hair and voluptuous breasts are characteristics of Sedna’s appearance and beauty. Looking at Sedna you can see her hair going down inside the Narwhal’s body. There is a wonderful balance and harmony with this piece between traditional knowledge, meaning, history and contemporary aesthetics with consideration of today’s major concerns for Inuit in this very moment in time.

Looking at our traditional beliefs in Sedna and her abilities and how it created our practices to be respectful to our environment and to make use of the products and materials we get from our animals, I believe that we can learn a lot from this particular Inuit legend to bring change to many things today. Climate Change is obvious to Inuit because we see directly the changes in our ice, our animals, our seasonal hunting transportation changes, animal migrations routes, new plant life, new animal life. During the summer month people are using Air Conditioners now in some parts of the north. I think we can all learn from Sedna’s story and bring our own positive changes to the world.

He very kindly agreed to answer some questions I had about this piece and I’m excited to share them:

Your sculpture, Sedna Speaks, is making a strong statement about climate change in the Arctic. Is it important for you to create art with a message?

Yes, I feel it is my calling to create with messages, even my more simpler pieces have meaning behind them. I believe we as a culture, and being one of the last remaining cultures in the world to be strong and continue with our practices, language, traditional ways etc, have a very important responsibility in preserving our culture. Our last elders to live on the land as an independent and free culture are dying, these are our direct source of rich knowledge and traditions so we need to do as much as we can to learn from them. It is important for me but I believe it to be more important for our own people, our youth, and the rest of the world to learn about our highly creative culture.

For readers who aren’t aware, can you tell us a bit about how you see the environment changing in Nunavik?

It has been warming in the north much more than anyone can imagine. Although the weather patterns are still functioning around the same time of seasons, our ice are forming later in the winters, melting sooner in the spring, our summers are getting hotter to the point where air conditioners are needed in some parts of Nunavik. We’re seeing animal and plant life that never used to exist in the north, our animal migration routes are changing, our waters are showing much higher levels of contaminants, we are experiencing erratic and freak weather changes, for example having thunder and lightening storms in the middle of February. The seasonal transportation changes are changing much earlier and much later than what they used to be, our polar bears are coming in to land and closer to our communities than what they used to. We see directly the climate changes because we are still dependent on sustenance hunting for food, so we directly how ‘we’ are affected, how our animals are affected, so therefor how the world is being affected. In the south people don’t see the changes so drastically because food is provided all year long without change, transportation is the same all year without change, people don’t notice changes in the land and in our animals in the south because they don’t have to hunt them directly themselves, so it is much harder to see in the south compared to the north.

Detail of "Sedna Speaks", photo courtesy of Alec Lawson Tuckatuck

Why did you choose the narwhal as the animal that Sedna is transforming from?

The narwhal is such a beautiful and mystical animal, magical, and like the unicorn people hold this animal in such esteem that I believe it was important to choose the narwhal to better affect people and get the message our there and across.

Detail of "Sedna Speaks", photo courtesy of Alec Lawson Tuckatuck

In your description of the sculpture, you say that the green tusk speaks for Sedna. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

The green serpentine tusk represents our earth, our environment, and how we need to go “green” in order to save our planet/ourselves. The colour green carries such a powerful meaning for our world today and with the meanings we’ve held our narwhal and the magic in it’s being and tusks, it was important for Sedna to be able convey her messages effectively.

Detail of "Sedna Speaks", photo courtesy of Alec Lawson Tuckatuck

Sedna has a really interesting expression in this piece: it looks like she could be speaking, singing, angry or even crying (though, since the piece is called Sedna Speaks, I assume she is speaking). Can you talk a bit about what you want her to be expressing?

Sedna speaks with her expression and I’ve created her so that she affects people the way they themselves view the world and the effects of global warming and climate change. So, this way people will relate to Sedna’s expressions from within themselves and in turn this will bring out the inner expression they carry around themselves in their subconscious feelings about what we are doing to our own world and what we need to do to save it. In some way we are all aware of global weather changes, but many of us are still dormant in making efforts to bring the subconscious to the forefront and see/deal with what is right in front of us.

Your style is really beautiful and unique. I know you have been carving since a very young age and were taught by your family members. Did you consciously try to shape your style into what is has become? Have you had any formal training?

I have not had formal training, I have learned everything I know from learning from my elders and my own efforts. I create from within and although I have learned the foundations of carving from my people, it is all me expressing in my own creative mind the meanings and stories I believe to be important for us to remember and learn from. I do not try to create a certain way, I create with stories and messages I am meant to tell by letting them tell me how they want to be created. From that point everything is natural in expression, raw, and real. It is simply what comes out of me by what messages I am supposed to tell.

What do you hope people take away from your artwork in general and this sculpture in particular?

Please listen to us and learn about us so that we are heard. We are a small community in this world that I believe deserves a much bigger voice. We have many things to offer to the world and I believe we, as an Inuit culture, have a responsibility to ourselves and to our worldly ‘family’ to bring back some things to natural and raw form, so that we may connect again as a  human species and combine our powers to bring better changes to the world.

I hope everyone will have a chance to see this powerful work in person as well as the other powerful sculptures displayed with it.

-Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator


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