Tag Archives: art

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

Something Different, Something New: The Making of ‘Unikkaaqtuat’

23 Jul

It’s hard to believe I only arrived at the museum two months ago, and that my internship is almost over. Everyone here has made me feel so welcome; it’s made my internship just fly by. So much has happened in that short period of time that it’s hard to fit everything into just a few paragraphs. To cover some of the main points, while I’ve been here I’ve gotten to apply everything I learnt in school to actual situations. I’ve had the opportunity to catalogue and condition report objects, to transport object, and to pack and store objects – all things I’ve learnt theoretically but seldom in practice. I have gotten to grow, to learn, and to be confident in my opinions and ideas.

rolling up works on paper for return

Myself and the MIA Collections Manager preparing some works on paper to be returned.

Being able to state my opinions and ideas with confidence is the most important part of this internship for me, and it is what helped make our newest exhibition Unikkaaqtuat: Inuit Creation Stories a reality. When I first started I was asked, somewhat in passing, to think about what a new exhibition could be. There were a few options, but nothing stood out to me except finding a way to explore Inuit myths and legends. I did not know much, but I was eager to learn more.  That’s how I began the research for this exhibition – by reading a wide variety of myths and legends, and I started with Inhabit Media’s “Unikkaaqtuat: An Introduction to Inuit Myths and Legends.” As soon as the idea solidified I emailed Inhabit Media, and got great feedback from their organization. I got to choose some of my favourite stories, and with MIA’s Collections Manager I got to look through the museum collection to find objects to accompany those stories. Together Lauren and I narrowed down our list, and chose objects to best reflect the stories. From that point on it became a matter of organization. Which stories would go beside each other? Which objects look best when paired together? What can we do to create the best impact?

We planned this exhibition to be as family-friendly as possible, to add colour, lower plinths, and create interactive components to help entice parents to bring their children to the museum. Objects and text panels were placed lower on the wall to help children interact with the objects. We’ve even added a LEGENDary Theatre so visitors can use puppets to act out the stories they’ve read in the exhibit or share their own stories.

There are five different stories represented in the case, each accompanied by art from the MIA permanent collection.

There are five different stories represented in the case, each accompanied by art from the MIA permanent collection.

As the exhibition planning and execution continued to progressed, it became obvious to me that this would become an exhibition with a selection of some of my favourite stories, and objects. From light and humorous to dark and frightening, this exhibition explores different stories of how things came into existence.

Following the opening more programming, tours, and art activities will connect with the show and I hope you have a chance to see it this summer.

– Posted by Taylor M., MIA’s Collections Intern

Surprise Guests!

21 Oct

It’s not often we get surprises at the museum, but last week we had a very nice one: Stephen A Smith and Julia Szucs, the directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat) came by to visit. You may remember that the film played as part of the Planet in Focus festival here in Toronto last week, but what you may not know is that our staff took a “field trip” together to see it, since we were one of the co-presenters.

Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat).

Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat) stopped by to see us this afternoon!

The film was beautifully shot and an interesting take on the connections between Inuit living in Canada and in Greenland. The official synopsis is:

Two Inuit communities in the circumpolar Arctic, linked by lineage to a legendary shaman, navigate through the greatest social and environmental challenges in their history.

Seemingly pristine and untouched, the Arctic is profoundly impacted by globalization. Vanishing Point brings to light the interconnectedness of isolated Arctic society with the rest of humanity through the eyes of an Inuit elder, Navarana K’avigak. And as the world melts beneath their feet, the last great hunting culture confronts an uncertain future.

Vanishing Point (Katinngat) is scheduled for a number of screenings (like in Banff October 27) and you can see their schedule on their website or Facebook. Want it to come where you live? Let them (and local film festival organizers) know!

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

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 http://miagallerycollectorsnight.eventbrite.com/.

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.

Spotlight On: Caribou Antler

16 Jun

Walking though the Museum of Inuit Art, I notice that caribou antler can be found everywhere throughout the collection. But why d0n’t I know much about it? It’s a material that seems to keep a low profile. Caribou antler is a common material used in Inuit art that often escapes notice because of its artistic limitations – it’s not glossy, it’s not very strong, and it’s oddly shaped.  However, it is used in many different ways! A few artists carve and construct works solely from the material, but many use the antler for minute detailing, larger features, or use it in its natural form.

Caribou in the wild (c) Travis S., used under Creative Commons license.

The use of caribou antler in Inuit art varies due to regional styles and types of artistic materials available. Antler is widely available to Inuit artists, as caribou can be found north of the tree-line across the Canadian Arctic, and especially in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. Both female and male caribou shed their antlers annually, so caribou are not hunted for their antler specifically.

Antler was traditionally used for utilitarian objects, such as buckles, snow goggles, and toys. Antler can be sawed or filed into shape, and can also be pegged or glued together to create more complex forms. In Arctic regions where the available stone is particularly hard and difficult to carve, antler can be used for detailing and emphasis.

Peter Assivaaryuk (1914-d), Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake), “Caribou Shaman” (1970s), caribou antler, Private Collection.

Caribou are particularly important for Inuit in the Kivalliq, who were traditionally nomadic hunters. The Kivalliq is also home to the Arctic’s only inland community, Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), so land mammals like caribou were much more important to survival in the surrounding area than sea mammals. Shamanim and hunting are common themes in art from this region, and often antler-based sculptures depict a tableau or scene, such as this intricate piece from Arviat displayed in the MIA collection:

Romeo Eekerkik (1923-1983), Arviat, “Journey to a Summer Camp” (1970s), Antler, Sprott/MIA Collection.

Because of the physical restrictions of antler as a material with a narrow circumference, artists often use pegs or glue to expand the form of their sculptures and create depth. Pegs can also function as joints, which provides the sculpture the possibility of movement, and mirrors a more traditional doll-like function.

Detail of pegs in Luke Iksiktaaryuk (1909-1977), Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake), “Standing Man” (mid-1970s), antler, metal, Private Collection.

Contemporary artist Mattiusi Iyaituk uses antler in a number of ways, sometimes as detailing or inlay, but most prominently he used the natural shape and curve of the antler with little alteration to its form. The points of the antler can represent fins, tails or hands. Mattiusi also uses antler as a base for many of his mixed-media sculptures, representing more spiritual and abstract forms.

Mattiusi Iyatuk (1950-), Akulivk, “My fantasy to one day see, to believe, Iaqluullamiluuq” (2008), stone, caribou antler, MIA Collection.

Next time you visit MIA, keep an eye out for all the ways artists use antler in their works. Find out more about materials in Inuit art, such as ivory and whalebone on the MIA blog!

– Posted by: Emma Ward, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Focus On: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s Musk Ox

6 May

Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) is an Inuit artist from Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Barnabus’s works have been a major influence and contribution to Inuit art from Qamani’tuaq since the 1960s.  He has a diverse repertoire of exceptional sculptures; however his muskox sculptures at the Museum of Inuit Art are some of my personal favourites, and are also very popular with visitors. His ability to capture the essence of his subject in a beautifully fluid style appeals to the viewer’s senses, and often makes them want to touch the art work.

Figure 1: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) “Musk Ox” (c. 1970s)

Figure 2: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) “Musk Ox” (1977)

The type of stone available to carve in Qamani’tuaq is a hard stone, which is very difficult to shape and to carve detailing into. The limitations of working with such a stone has certainly contributed to the style of the region, and to Barnabus’s personal expression.  His figures are heavy-set, rounded, and slightly abstract in design.

He captures the characteristics and mannerisms of the musxox by amplifying its features, such as the heavy rounded coat of the muskox in Figure 1 and the arched shoulders of the muskox in Figure 2. Muskoxen are a popular subject with carvers in the region, along with figures of hunters and animal-human transformations.

Musk Ox

Muskoxen in the wild (c) Alastair Knock, used under Creative Commons license.

Come to the museum to take a look at some other works by Barnabus Arnasungaaq!

– Posted By Emma Ward, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Conversation Series Part Three! Meet Jaco Ishulutaq

7 Mar

After some technical difficulties, we are back with our third installment of our Conversation Series via Skype. This time, meet Jaco Isulutaq from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung). Jaco is a well-respected carver who has been working for decades.

Jaco’s work is best known for his sculptures of the Inuit Sea Goddess, commonly called Sedna. Sedna is the Inuit sea goddess and a very important figure in traditional Inuit spirituality, particularly in coastal communities. There are many different names for the sea goddess as well as versions of her legend, which vary from community to community
According to one version, Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who was pressured into marriage to a sea bird by her father. Her new husband fed her fish and kept her in a nest on an island far from her family. Her father missed her and felt badly for forcing her into marriage, so he attempted to rescue her in his kayak. The bird was enraged, so he conjured up a deadly storm. In a panic, the father pushed Sedna over the side of the kayak but she clung to the side. Her father cut her fingers off, one by one, and they fell into the sea and transformed into sea mammals. Sedna herself sank into the water, where she transformed into the sea goddess. In other versions of the story, her husband is a dog or a hunter who gives her a sleeping potion and carries her off. Her father does not always cut her fingers off, either; sometimes, they freeze and fall off instead.

She was an incredibly important figure because she controlled Inuit access to marine mammals, which were a staple in many regional diets. She was easily upset and many traditional taboos (such as not eating caribou when hunting seal) were enforced in order not to anger her. Images of the Sea Goddess with unkempt hair often signify that she is upset, at which point she would hold back the marine mammals from Inuit hunters. The angukaak would then have to discover the transgression and overcome several trials in order to reach her undersea home. There, the angukaak would either have to soothe her by combing and braiding her hair or, in other versions, force her to release the sea mammals.

Skype Chat Series 2: Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory of Qaggiavvut!

2 Feb

As promised, today I had the pleasure of speaking with Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the Executive Director of Qaggiavvut! Society for a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre. There was so much to talk about that we had to split the conversation into two videos!

Watch Part 1 here:

And Part 2 here:

For more information on Qaggiavvut! or help build a state-of-the-art performing arts centre in Iqaluit, be sure to go to the website.

I’m working on lining up our next interview (hopefully for next week) – who would you like to see us talk to next?

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

2011 In Review

3 Jan

As we move into 2012, we want to quickly take a look back at 2011. It’s been a big year for the museum as we’ve expanded and moved into new territory, such as this blog. Here is 2011 in review:


Artist Abraham Anghik Ruben visited MIA to install Memories: An Ancient Past (2010), a sculpture which will eventually travel to the Smithsonian in 2012.


We opened our Twitter account and this blog!

We published its Inuit Wallhangings colouring book, focusing on wall hangings from Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). The museum donates 500 copies to Rachel Arngnammaktiq Elementary School in Qamani’tuaq.


We posted our introductory guide on our website.


MIA celebrated International Museum Day by conducting tours focused on museums and their relationship to memories.

MIA welcomed artist Noah Maniapik to conduct a printmaking workshop with visitors, courtesy of the M. and G. Thiel Educational Centre.



MIA celebrated National Aboriginal History Month by beginning Playing Favourites, a project encouraging visitors to have their pictures taken with their favourite piece in MIA’s collection and tell us why it is their favourite. The project is so successful it is extended indefinitely.



MIA began offering Quick Chat programming, aimed to entice visitors to look more closely at objects in the museum’s collection by giving short, focused introductions to particular objects.


In addition to the museum’s traditional audio guides, the museum now offers printed versions of the text for those who prefer to read rather than listen. The museum also began implementing bilingual signage throughout the museum’s interior to better serve its diverse audience and installed family-friendly labels throughout the museum in order to better serve the museum’s family audience.


MIA Director David Harris and Educational Coordinator Alysa Procida travelled to Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet), Nunavut from September 17 to September 24 to assist with project development, museum acquisitions and future exhibition planning.


We participated in Culture Days, a nation-wide weekend of free cultural activities aimed at engaging the community in arts and cultural programming. MIA offers free printmaking workshops and hands-on activities.

We welcomed the Inuit Art Society and artist Billy Gauthier to tour the museum as part of their annual conference. Representatives from the museum discuss the museum’s progress, mission and plans for the future at the conference in Hamilton.

MIA completely overhauls its audio guide system and implements Quick Response (QR) codes throughout the museum. When scanned by a smartphone or tablet device, they link visitors directly with relevant audio tracks, photos, videos, maps and additional information relevant to the object.

We opened its exhibition The Unique World of Jessie Kenalogak and incorporated physical and virtual ways to ask the artist questions and begin dialogue about the artwork with other visitors.


We published its Inuit Art in Canada in softcover, as well as its Introductory Guide and Gallery Selected Pieces Volume 1  as eBooks.

MIA launched its new membership categories with overhauled benefits, responding to visitors’ needs for a more customizable system.


MIA partnered with the National Film Board Mediatheque in Toronto to celebrate the launch of Unikkausivut: Sharing Our Stories. MIA visitors and members are entitled to a 10% discount on the DVD, while visitors to the NFB Mediatheque who also visit MIA receive a complimentary copy of Inuit Art in Canada.

2011 was a great year for the museum and we are looking forward to 2012: it’s the International Year of Co-Operatives and our partnership with the NFB Mediatheque continues this month. Stay tuned for more updates!

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator