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Dancing Bears and Downward Dogs

4 Feb

Yoga promotional banner
Many of the visitors who have taken advantage of our docent-run museum tours, may have witnessed an impressive physical feat captured in stone.  The Dancing Bears we have on display in our collection are excellent examples of Pauta Saila’s artistic talent because these large, heavy bears balance themselves ON ONE FOOT!

I don’t know if you have ever tried to stand on one leg for any length of time, but personally I can easily tip over from the faintest breeze. And anytime I take a school tour past these sculptures I try to strengthen whatever muscles I have and beat my balance time (my record is 40 seconds and the kids always beat it FYI).

This little activity has spawned a few other games and fun facts, like our SCVNGR challenge where you take a picture of your best dancing bear pose for some online points, or “Did you know” polar bear trivia about how they walk with their toes pointed outwards and slightly to the side.

As of this past Sunday, we took it one step further and actually introduced a brand new public program in partnership with Moksha Yoga Danforth. Under the instruction of Megan Hoskins, MIA staff and volunteers piloted a yoga class inside the museum and right next to the famous dancing bears. Being surrounded by art, seeing the sun rise over the water outside our windows, and gently moving into the different stances was so incredibly relaxing I started to wonder why I hadn’t gone to yoga classes earlier.

While I won’t go so far as to call myself a yogi quite yet, that quite meditation time and learning more about muscles I’ve left unnoticed is something I am definitely interested in continuing. And with the successful pilot, the museum is going to repeat this invigorating experience!

For the remainder of February, Instructor Elenanor Berenson will lead an addition session from 8:30-9:30am in the MIA Pedestal Gallery. Admission is $10, or $8 for students and members.

Anyone who is interesting in participating can register here and is reminded to bring their own mat (and blocks if you prefer to use them for certain poses).

I’m confident that Megan’s helpful hints have already helped my balance issue, but just to be safe, I won’t be offended if we’re not mat buddies haha!

– Posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Moksha yoga instructor in front of the contemporary inuit art case.

Calling all Sewing Enthusiasts in Toronto!

24 Jan

Do you love to sew?  Would you be interested in volunteering your time to the creation of a community-generated art piece?


“Sewing” by Flickr user Mundoo. Used under Creative Commons License.

The Museum of Inuit Art is busy at work developing our public programming for Family Day during which we will be creating a collaborative art piece in the museum.  A wall hanging will be made by the public based on the theme of community and how family connects us. Individuals can contribute a textile piece to the wall hanging by cutting out a design from available fabric scraps. But to do this, we need your help!

We are looking for people to be onsite at the museum on February 16 to 18 from 10 AM to 6 PM to help sew and/or embroider public submissions onto the base of our wall hanging. This community-generated art piece will then be put on display in the museum for the remainder of Heritage Week (February 19 to 24)!  

This idea is inspired by an exhibition currently on display at MIA entitled Stories From My Grandmother: Irene Avaalaaqiaq, which showcases Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake) artist Irene Avaalaaqiaq’s personal and narrative style as demonstrated in her wall hangings, drawings, prints and beautiful amauti construction. Inuit wall hangings represent an authentic textile art form with an emphasis on inventive composition and expert technique.  Irene has stated that: Whenever I see my wall hangings they remind me of my life. I always remember my grandmother and the stories and legends she told me.

Did you know?
Wall hangings or neevingatah means “something to hang”. In traditional Inuit culture, women were highly regarded for their sewing abilities because survival of the entire family depended upon having expertly crafted clothing for the extreme Arctic weather. Wall hangings were created from leftover clothing scraps, using duffle as a base or background and felt pieces sewn on top to create a decorative design. Today, the tradition continues with skilled artists using brightly coloured fabric, beads and textiles to create distinctive and striking artworks.

We look forward to celebrating this art form through the completion of Toronto-made wall hanging!

To be a part of this exciting initiative, please email the date and time you are available to come sew at the museum to Lindsay Bontoft, MIA’s Volunteer Coordinator at miamuseum [at] gmail [dot] com.

Posted by Lindsay Bontoft, MIA’s Volunteer Coordinator

Construction Heads Up Part 12: Temporary Intersection Closure

20 Jan


Unrelated to the recent construction that has been taking place outside of the museum, we have an important notice about additional road work to keep in mind when making travel arrangements.

There will be a partial intersection closure at Spadina Av./ Lakeshore Blvd. and the Gardiner Eastbound off-ramp between January 19th and January 21st.

Pedestrian access will remain open at all times but below are access routes available during this portion of the construction.

Lakeshore Blvd (eastbound)

  • one lane straight through the intersection will be open

Spadina Ave. (southbound)

  • one lane straight through the intersection will be open
  • right-turn Gardiner Expressway/ Lakeshore Blvd. on-ramp will be open

Gardiner Expressway (eastbound) off-ramp at Spadina Ave.

  • one lane will be closed


  • replacement bus service from King Street to Queens Quay Loop will continue to operate
  • northbound buses will detour from Lakesore Blvd. to Rees St./ Bremner Blvd. from January 19-21

And to update you  on how the Queens Quay revitalization has been coming along, we have news that the major demolition and repaving of the TTC corridor is complete however,  Westbound traffic is being diverted to the north, centre or south travel lanes depending on the type of construction required along the corridor.

Bay Street to 55 Harbour Square

  • Traffic will remain on the south side of the street to accommodate Toronto Hydro (PLP) crews who continue to work in the north lanes. Local traffic for 10/20 Bay Street and the EllisDon construction site will be permitted through this work area.

55 Harbour Square to Robertson Crescent

  • Traffic has moved to the centre of Queens Quay. Please note that the TTC bus stops at York Street and Lower Simcoe Street are now located in the centre travel lane. A special loading/unloading area has been created for each stop using concrete jersey barriers and a designated walkway from the signalized intersection provides safe access to the bus stops.

Rees Street to Spadina Avenue

  • There will continue to be a single lane of westbound traffic (on the north side of the street) in this area.The TTC bus stop just past Rees Street will remain on the northside curb and sidewalk.

And as always, you can steer clear of the cars by following our pedestrian directions or check out the original construction notice here for detailed information about what stage the work is in and what to expect in the coming weeks.

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

Photo-shoots and Puppy Poses

5 Sep

Summer might be winding down, but the Harbourfront is still busy, busy, busy.
The latest event to hit the Queen’s Quay Terminal is Haute Dog -a three day event filled with puppies and free stuff!

This event is a new one for the area. Geared towards families and their dogs, Haute Dog will be hosting different activities and shows from September 7-9th. You’ll be able to ask Dr. Slav Debski, D.V.M about for tips and advice relating to your puppy’s health and wellness, get caricatures of you and your pet, and participate in a pet photo-op for FREE!

And thanks to Sobeys, when you buy a hot dog and drink, $1 of every purchase will be donated to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.

You can see the full schedule here.

We’re really excited to see everyone and their pets come by the Waterfront, and you’ll be able to enter to win your own MIA colouring book for free as part of the event. Just a gentle reminder, though: even though we love dogs, animals (with the exception of all service animals) will not be able to come into the museum for a visit.

-Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor ServicesOfficer

Meet Master Artist Jaco Ishulutaq!

9 Aug

Ever wanted to see exactly how sculptures are made? Want to know what working within the co-operative system is like? Are you a fan of Jaco Ishulutaq’s work? Well, now’s your chance! Jaco is coming to the museum and will be here from August 15 – 19 as part of our programming for Planet IndigenUS.

Jaco Ishulutaq working in the Arctic

Jaco Ishulutaq working in the Arctic. Courtesy of RJ Ramrattan/Canadian Arctic Producers

You may remember Jaco from earlier this year when I was able to chat with him via Skype as part of our Conversation Series. He is a technically skilled master sculptor from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung) whose work tells important stories about his community and his life. There are lots of opportunities to meet him, speak with him and see how he works next week, so mark your calendars!

Wednesday August 15:
2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Public Talk, “Art Making in Canada’s North”

Jaco  and I will discuss the challenges and rewards of making art in the Arctic. Visitors will have a chance to ask him their own questions and talk with him about his career. Register in advance at Eventbrite or on Facebook!

Thursday August 16

2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Opening of “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” Special Exhibition

I will give an introduction to and brief tour of the museum’s latest special exhibition, “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” which examines the important role Inuit owned and operated cooperatives have played in the development of art made by Inuit.  Jaco will discuss his experiences working within the cooperative system in Panniqtuuq before opening the floor to questions. Visitors will then have the opportunity to meet the artist. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

Friday August 17

2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Public Talk, “Making Art Within the Cooperative System”

Jaco and I will give an overview of the museum’s latest special exhibition “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” before discussing art made specifically in Panniqtuuq. Panniqtuuq is home to an internationally acclaimed weaving studio, print studio and many sculptors. Visitors will then have the opportunity to ask Ishulutaq their questions and meet the artist. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

7 PM – 9 PM MIA Gallery Collectors’ Night

The MIA Gallery will host its weekly collectors’ night, introducing participants to art made by Inuit and the Inuit art market. MIA’s Director of Education Alysa Procida will begin with a brief tour of the museum, followed by a brief talk by MIA’s Gallery Director Christine Platt about the important features of the Inuit art market. Then, artist Jaco Ishulutaq will discuss his experiences making art and his works on display in the gallery. Participants will then have the ability to browse the gallery and speak with Ishulutaq directly. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved in advance at

Saturday August 18

12:30 PM -5 PM: Sculpture Making Demonstration – Complimentary

Master carver Jaco Ishulutaq will demonstrate his art making techniques by completing a sculpture just outside the Museum of Inuit Art at Queen’s Quay Terminal. From 12:30 PM to 5 PM, visitors are welcome to visit Ishulutaq while working and discuss his art and techniques with him. The carving demonstration will take place outside MIA’s south entrance on the southwest corner of Queen’s Quay Terminal facing Lake Ontario. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

We hope to see you there!

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach

Support for these events has been generously provided by Canadian Arctic Producers and the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.

Studying Syllabics

30 May

Despite my occasional spelling mistakes, and my tendency to wing it when it comes to grammar (like inserting commas where I feel they look nice) I want to describe myself as a linguist – someone who studies languages.

For example, as I was finishing up my Bachelors Degree in Art History and writing a paper about a church in Venice, it occurred to me that understanding Italian would be useful. And when I thought that I might some day work for a museum in Ottawa I quickly tried to recall all the French lessons I had previously tuned out in high school. I made it a a few steps further than my poor Italian pronunciation, but I still ended up getting distracted with old episodes of Téléfrancais! on YouTube.

When I lived in Korea I made an even more pronounced effort to pick up the local lingo by purchasing some serious study guides: a book featuring a cartoon rabbit who taught her pig friend how to read Hangul, DVD’s of television dramas (all of which starred Lee Min Ho), and private lessons with a Korean girl who quickly taught me all the slang kids around me were using to point out the foreigner (me).

Anytime I travel, I try to memorize some survival phrases. Things such as: hello, thank you, sorry, where is the.., how much is the…” and the rest I get by with my amazing Pictionary skills. And although I didn’t have to travel very far when I started interning here at the MIA, I’ve been slowly accumulating an assortment of random words in Inuktitut.

Now I say Inuktitut, but that deserves a better description because the Inuit language is made of a series of related but distinct dialects. Not everyone is in total agreement that all these dialects grouped together should be called Inuktitut. Inuktitut is just one section of Inuit language and the only one of those dialects that uses syllabics. In particular, Innuinaqtun is considered by some people to be a separate language/dialect from Inuktitut, not just a dialect of Inuktitut.

Tusaalanga’s Inuit Language Map listing six predominant dialects.

So far this was all making sense to me. And I could even follow along when I read how the syllabic writing system actually comes from Anglican missionaries in the 1870s. Another fun fact: the syllabic system used for Inuktitut was  based on Cree syllabics, which had been based on secretarial shorthand!

But here is where my little international intern brain started to fumble.
Whereas the other languages I had studied have been described by a fellow blogging linguist as forming strings of separate words (such as: subject-object-verb), Inuktitut grammar structure has been described as Duplo blocks, where a single word can be built upon over and over again. For example: to say, “I’ll have to go to the airport” would be qangatasuukkuvimmuuriaqalaaqtunga because very long words can be put together using many affixes. However, not all phrases in Inuit language can be composed of just one word.

My plan is to start out small, with some key words.
And since I have a flair for the cute, I loved loved LOVED working on this crossword puzzle from the Uqausirmut Quviasuqatigiinnirmut activity book produced by the Department of Culture, Language, Elders, Youth. You can find more activities and flash cards on the Government of Nunavut’s Language Promotion and Learning webpage.

My first study session: Crosswords and cookies!

While I doubt I’ll be able to master an entire language in the remaining few weeks I have here as an intern, I really want to celebrate this fascinating and complex system in June. It’s National Aboriginal History month and for each day I’m going to tweet a daily word in several different dialects including; both South and North Qikiqtaaluk, Inuinnaqtun, Nattilinmiut, and Paallirmiut. Just a heads up, even within the Twitter examples of the different dialects I’ll be giving, Inuit language differs from community to community so there really is no standard.

Hope you’ll follow along and be my next study buddy!

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

MIA Crafts for Doors Open Toronto

29 May

MIA Kids making inuksuit in the museum’s M. and G. Theil Education Centre.

Narwhals, and walruses, and seals, oh no! MIA arts assistants led the collaborative crafts project for this year’s Doors Open Toronto. MIA Kids constructed Arctic animals, igloos, and inuksuit from modelling clay and paper, and then helped us decorate our Arctic landscape. There were lots of fabulous creations! Here’s a look completed project:

Our nearly finished Arctic landscape. Looks great!

Thanks to all the MIA Kid’s who participated in this fantastic project. The museum  provides drawing materials in the M. and G. Theil Education Centre throughout the week, so come by anytime and participate in our Monthly Drawing Contest. Arts and crafts are led by MIA’s arts assistants every Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-4pm.

Posted by Emma Ward, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer