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Culture Days Spotlight: Blandina Makkik

15 Sep

Founded in 2009, Culture Days is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a national network of cultural connections devoted to providing Canadians with opportunities to participate in, and appreciate, all forms of arts and culture. MIA joins this collaborative initiative with our 3rd annual Inuit Art Identification Clinic. Members of the public are invited to bring in a piece of Inuit art from their personal collection to have it verbally appraised by a panel of experts. 

MIA is pleased to welcome back the wonderful Blandina Makkik for her second year on our all-star panel of Inuit art specialists.  Blandina is an excellent addition to the panel with her keen eye for spotting signatures and her intimate knowledge of Inuktitut.  You won’t want to miss the opportunity to have such an experienced professional examine your own precious artworks!

Blandina MakkikBlandina Makkik was born and raised in Igloolik on the northwestern coast off Baffin Island, Nunavut. Previous to joining the team at the Craft Ontario Shop, she served as a Land Claims Implementation Advisor for the Government of Nunavut. She has also worked as an Advisor for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade where she traveled extensively throughout the Circumpolar world.

From 1985 to 1991, Blandina was the Senior Producer for Inuit Broadcasting and developed the first children’s television programming available in Inuktitut. The program, Takuginai (Look and Learn) won numerous awards internationally. Blandina joined Craft Ontario in 2005.

She has her International Baccalaureate from Lester B. Pearson College of The Pacific and has also attended Trent University, McGill University and St. Francis Xavier University.


Culture Days Spotlight: Christa Ouimet

9 Sep

Founded in 2009, Culture Days is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a national network of cultural connections devoted to providing Canadians with opportunities to participate in, and appreciate, all forms of arts and culture. MIA joins this collaborative initiative with our 3rd annual Inuit Art Identification Clinic. Members of the public are invited to bring in a piece of Inuit art from their personal collection to have it verbally appraised by a panel of experts. 

This year we are pleased to have Christa Ouimet return to our all-star panel of Inuit art specialists. Christa has been a panelist every year since our inaugural event in 2013.  Christa is an integral part of Katilivik  –  an indispensable resource for staff at MIA.  Check it out next time you are looking to identify an artist – you can search by name, community, disc number, or even syllabics!


Christa Ouimet - updated photo

Christa’s Biography

As Managing Director of Waddington’s Inuit art Department and Fine Art Specialist, Christa’s extensive knowledge and experience has earned her reputation as one of the world’s leading experts in Inuit Art.  Her 15 years in the Canadian art auction industry has culminated in the handling of over $2 million of Inuit art a year.  In addition to auction sales and appraisal consultation, Christa provides an educational service through a free web based platform including identifying artists, dating sculptures, evaluating and providing biographical information.  2003 saw Christa’s first major contribution to Waddington’s when she added a spring auction in addition to the annual fall auction of Inuit Art, at the same time she was able to pursue her desire to promote Inuit works on paper as the sole focus of her inaugural spring catalogue.  Waddington’s spring Inuit Art auction continues to be an anticipated event and a fixture in the Waddington’s auction calendar.  In 2007 Christa spearheaded Waddington’s online auctions offering an additional selection of Inuit art every month.  Online auctions are now a successful addition to all of Waddington’s specialties.  Christa has developed partnerships for promotional events in correspondence with Waddington’s biannual Inuit art auctions with esteemed organizations such as, Adventure Canada, McMichael Canadian Art Collection and BirdLife International.  Christa enjoys being a regular panelist in the Museum of Inuit art’s (MIA) annual appraisal clinic.

An Internship Farewell

25 Aug

Goodbyes are never easy, and this week at the Museum of Inuit Art (MIA) is no exception. The time has come for me to finish another summer of work here at the Museum of Inuit Art, and I must say, it’s just as difficult the second time.

As you can imagine, I’ve grown quite attached to the MIA. I never expected that I would get the chance to work here for two summers in a row, but I’m so grateful I did! Back in May 2014 when I started my first Young Canada Works position as Visitor Services Officer, I had a lot to learn about museum work. My knowledge has drastically increased since then, as I’ve had the opportunity to fill various roles during my time here, such as conducting a visitor evaluation, processing admissions at the front desk, giving tours and promoting MIA at local arts and culture festivals.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who helped out with all the out reach sessions we attended. It was so great to meet people who were interested in learning and sharing knowledge about art and history. It’s so inspiring to see community members giving back by lending their time and experience.

I would also like to thank all the visitors that came out to the programming – both on and offsite of the museum. It was great to put into practice what I had been developing behind the scenes. Through interactions and testing I was able to adapt some new activities and make them even better for the next group of curious museum seekers.

And last but not least I would like to thank MIA staff for welcoming me back, and for making this summer such a wonderful experience. I’ve learned even more about museum work and programming, and after venturing all over Toronto with our outreach team and special events volunteers, I’ve been able to see the museum from a different perspective. Bringing objects from MIA’s Educational Collection to Toronto Public Library branches and local events opened my eyes to the many outreach possibilities in the city, and I’m grateful to have been a part of that.

Even though I’m leaving at the end of another rewarding summer, I look forward to visiting the museum again soon – I’m especially excited for the Abraham Anghik Ruben exhibition this fall! I am so fortunate that I’ve been able to gain experience in my chosen field, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work. Thanks again, MIA!


Posted by Serena Y., MIA’s Community Engagement Officer

Get Up Close and Personal: Please DO Touch!

21 Aug

Over the past few weeks, Serena -the museum’s Summer YCW work intern, has been developing more interactive programming inside the museum. After brainstorming, researching, testing and training volunteers she was able to launch Get Up Close and Personal to share art works directly with museum visitors. Read about her experience creating the new program below.

Keeping museum pieces secure and safe from harm is a priority at any museum or art gallery. No museum is complete without a large sign or two saying “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH”. However, if you’ve been to MIA in the last couple of months on a Thursday afternoon, you may have had the chance to participate in our new Get Up Close and Personal sessions.

These interactive sessions offer visitors the unique opportunity to touch objects from the MIA Educational Collection. Pieces in our Educational Collection are meant to be handled, so visitors can feel free to pick them up and learn more about the texture and material of each object.

I’ve been running these weekly Get Up Close and Personal sessions since July, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. Visitors enjoy engaging in this tactile experience and trying to guess what material each piece is made of based on its texture.


Serena is all set to go for ‘Get Up Close and Personal’. You can join a session every Thursday from 1-2 PM in the museum.

It’s quite interesting to see how visual appreciation of the works in the museum translates to visitors’ tactile experiences – I often ask visitors to feel the porous texture of the antler doll in the collection and to guess what material it is made of. The most common answers are “bone” and “wood”, so most visitors are surprised to learn that the doll is made of antler, which caribou shed every year.

It has been especially rewarding to see how visitors make connections between what they have already seen in the museum and what they are holding in their hands. Once visitors find out that the carved ivory piece is a walrus tusk, many of them mention the narwhal tusk and the small ivory sculptures in the historical case at the museum.


Pieces from the museum’s Educational Collection that reflect the different types of materials and textures you can find in art produced by Inuit.

I’ve even encountered visitors who are familiar with Inuit art and have recognized different types of stone, pointing to Pudliak Shaa’s “Dancing Goose” and saying, “is that serpentine?”

These interactions with visitors are part of what makes working at MIA so fulfilling. I love contributing to visitor learning and watching visitors discover more about Inuit art. If you’d like to see (and touch) these objects for yourself, be sure to drop by the museum on Thursdays from 1-2 PM!

Posted by Serena Y., MIA’s Community Engagement Officer

Planet IndigenUS at MIA

28 Jul

Planet-IndigenUS-posterAfter a blur of summer events at the museum, and the extravaganza that was the Pan Am games, it’s hard to believe that August is already on its way.

Over the last two months I’ve been lucky enough to participate in outreach events at the Toronto Public Library, Party on the Promenade and most recently, the Aboriginal Pavilion at Fort York; and yet, we still have more events planned for the rest of the summer at MIA!

Planet IndigenUS is a 10-day festival promoting aboriginal arts and culture, and MIA will be celebrating alongside (literally – their building is next door) the Harbourfront Centre! From July 31 to August 9, events will take place at locations such as museums, libraries and art centres both in and around the GTA. As part of Planet IndigenUS the museum will be offering three types of programming focusing on the theme of “Seven Generations” – how the actions we make in the present affect future generations.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better: both tour options are free with admission!

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better: both tour options are free with admission!

Guided Tours
Join me and other docents from the MIA Volunteer Team  for a guided tour of the museum’s permanent collection. Between August 4th and 9th we arehosting two tours a day, one beginning at at 11 AM and the second starting at 1PM. We love showing visitors around and sharing the stories behind some of our most popular pieces.

Self Guided Tours
Alternatively, if you prefer wandering at your own pace, we’ll also be offering a special self-guided tour for the duration of Planet IndigenUS. Simply follow the Planet IndigenUS feather icon found in our display cases to learn more about the pieces we have on view.

Throat Singing with Sylvia Cloutier
But that’s not all we’re doing for Planet IndigenUS this summer. If you’ve never had the chance to check out Inuit throat singing before, now’s your chance! MIA is thrilled to be hosting Sylvia Cloutier, a well-known Inuk throat singer from the Nunavik region, on August 8th at 6PM. Sylvia’s live performance will take place in the museum and will be followed by a Q&A session where guests can find out more about Sylvia and her work. Tickets can be purchased online, in person at the museum, or by calling (416) 640-1571.

I feel so fortunate to be involved in so many different events promoting aboriginal art and culture, and I’m excited for these upcoming activities. Planet IndigenUS is another great opportunity to celebrate the diversity and unique talent of aboriginal artists.

Planet IndigenUS is sure to be an amazing 10 days – come celebrate with us!


– Posted by Serena Y., MIA’s Community Engagement Officer

Introducing Our New Community Engagement Intern!

14 May


Hello, my name is Tom and I am the new Community Engagement Intern here at the Museum of Inuit Art! I’ve been volunteering as a docent with MIA since August 2014. As a docent, I have had many wonderful opportunities to gain community engagement experience and I’m hoping to expand on that during my internship. Aside from my public docent tours that lead visitors through popular themes in Inuit art, stylistic differences across the Canadian Arctic, and the various types of material used to create the art, I’ve also assisted with several special events – you may have seen me during March Break and Winterfest! I’ve also had the opportunity to deliver MAP Family Saturday programing where I’ve visited Toronto Public Library branches and brought out museum artifacts from the museum’s Educational Collection for Hands-On sessions, played traditional Inuit games and led art activities so visitors could bring their own piece of art back home. I’ve also been attending a Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College over the course of the past year. This program helped me develop a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to build my museum experience. While the program involved all sorts of work including care of collections and exhibition development, I’ve always had a strong interest in working with the public. When I needed to seek out a placement for an Internship for the MMC program, the MIA stood out to me both due to my cherished experience with the museum as well as the fact that I knew it had a lot of community programing coming up over the spring and summer. I was very happy that the Museum was willing to host my internship, and am excited to have the opportunity to develop my skills during my time here. I am really excited to be a part of the MIA team, thanks for having me! – Posted by Tom E., MIA’s Outreach Intern

Stories by the Qulliq

29 Dec

A qulliq lamp burning whale blubber to keep the iglu warm. Photo by Brendan Griebel, 2012.

This past weekend the museum hosted “Stories by the Qulliq” where a series a of children’s stories illustrated several popular Inuit legends and myths. But what exactly is a qulliq?

Qulliq or Kudlik (ᖁᓪᓕᖅ) is the traditional oil lamp used by Inuit. Typically carved from stone, it takes a rounded shape with a depression at the top to hold the seal oil used as fuel. Prior to electricity and hydro becoming available in the Arctic this lamp acted as the only source of light and heat for Inuit. During the periods of perpetual winter darkness, the qulliq would have burned almost continuously inside the house. It also doubled as a stove.

Tending to the qulliq was commonly a woman’s job and was truly an art in itself. Cubes of blubber were placed on the lamp’s concave surface. A blubber pounder was used to crush the blubber, pressing out the precious oil it contained. The lamp wick, made from moss or cotton grass, was soaked in this oil and arranged on a line along the edge of the lamp. Prior to Inuit having access to matches, they would use a bow drill or two flint stones to create a spark to ignite the lamp. Once the lamp was lit, it required constant attention and trimming to ensure that the flames were the right height, that it wasn’t producing too much smoke, and that it wouldn’t go out.


This qulliq is from the museums Educational Collection so visitors can get up close and see one in person.

While visitors listened to the tiny tale of the Inugarulligaarjuit in “Ava and the Little Folk” or sat in suspense during “The Spirit of the Sea” our very own qulliq was on display. Our collection also holds contemporary interpretations of the lamp. Notice anything different?

fire spirits rising

“Fire Spirits Rising” (2008) by David Ruben Piqtoukun (1951 – ) Paulatuk, stone, charcoal

This piece by David Ruben Piqtoukun, is now on display inside the museum. You can find it in our Abstract case where you can learn more about the Follow You Art program.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator


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