Tag Archives: docent

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

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Belinda P.

12 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art has an amazing team of over 30 volunteers that offer their time and expertise to support many areas of our operations—public programs, visitor services, website development, collections management, and marketing to name a few. In 2013 our volunteers contributed nearly 4,888 hours to our organization. That is the equivalent of the hours worked by 2.5 full-time staff members in a given year! We are truly grateful for their support. Throughout National Volunteer Appreciation Week will be celebrating the contributions of our amazing volunteer team during 2013.

We have such a fantastic team here at the museum, it is hard to capture all the wonderful people involved but we’ve selected a few of our current and past volunteers in a variety of roles to speak about their experience being a part of the MIA family!


Belinda P.


Belinda Piercy is our longest serving volunteer. She began with us back in 2011 as a front desk volunteer and eventually completed the docent training program. She now gives tours to school groups and the general public on a regular basis. Belinda not only fulfills the requirements of the docent role here at the museum. We view Belinda as a leader amongst our volunteers and she has played an integral part in making our volunteer program bigger and better at MIA! 

Why did you decide to volunteer with the Museum of Inuit Art?

As a philosophy graduate student who writes about art and beauty, the Museum sounded like the perfect fit when I decided to get out into the community and start volunteering. It was!

Describe your experience so far with MIA.

My experience at MIA has been a continual process of falling in love with different artworks and artists, and the vision of the Museum itself. I started off as a front desk representative and took the opportunity to learn more about the Museum’s collection by becoming a docent. Deciding to get more involved has always rewarded me with a richer appreciation for the complexities and achievements of the works on display.

What was the most memorable or rewarding moment that you have had while volunteering with the museum?

I have had many memorable moments with both visitors and artworks. A favourite visitor encounter was the day I encouraged a woman who thought she knew our collection well to come in and take a look at a visiting exhibition. We spent the next half hour engaged in a lively exploration of different works and the reflections on life they gave rise to. One of my favourite moments with an artwork was discovering the faint face on a minimalist sculpture of a bird by George Tataniq.  The small incised eyes are so light you need to look closely to see them and for a long time I brushed by the work too quickly to notice. As soon as I saw the under stated yet compelling personality added by that feature, I fell in love.

What have you learned from your experience with the museum thus far?

I have learned that much like getting to know a person, it takes time hanging out with artworks to get to see their different sides, and listen to the different questions they might ask. I don’t always know how to answer those questions, but I have really appreciated the opportunity the Museum has given me to return to things I didn’t notice at first and learn to see them again in new ways.

What are you doing now?

I am still a graduate student, working on my PhD in philosophy at the University of Toronto. I hope to finish that within the next year, and then my life will change. I hope volunteering at the Museum will still be a part of it, I know there is much more for me to discover here.


If you are interested in learning more about our docent training program, visit our website. We are always looking for people to join our team!

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

A Mother’s Day Amauti Lesson

13 May

Time for another intern update!
This week I was able observe a few docent tours and training sessions where our volunteers went through the MIA collection and pointed out fun Inuit facts.

For those of you who have taken part in the MIA’s docent program, you may have been introduced to some “two-headed sculptures” during your tour. These are actually part of a very popular theme in Inuit art and a perfect sculptural reference for Mother’s day!

Mari Kuunnuaq “Mother and Child” (c.1980) in the Museum of Inuit Art Collection

The “second head” belongs to that of a small child, who is being held against the mother’s back by an amauti. While in many artistic depictions it appears as though the baby is nestled in the hood of a parka, they are actually secured in a type of pouch and share the enlarged hood with their mother – so both can be protected from the cold arctic wind.

The amauti is an incredibly practical and multi-functioning piece of clothing. While the mother is busy working with her hands, she can swivel the child behind her. When it’s feeding time, the mother can bring the baby back to her front without needing to take off her warm parka. Not only does the amauti keep the baby sheltered from the harsh environment, but some people have argued that it even strengthens the bond between mother and child because of the close contact they remain in.

On the left is Margaret Notarina “Muskox Pack Doll” (c.2002) and on the right is an unidentified artist (“M.E.”) “Rabbit Pack Doll” (c. mid-200s) from the Museum of Inuit Art Collection.

MIA also has these pack doll examples made of duffle. These guys are definitely on my Top 10 list of favorite MIA pieces, and quite a few visitors from the Playing Favorites blog seem to agree with me.

So to all those mom’s out there. Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks for the lift!

posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

Meet some of MIA’s docents!

12 Apr

The Museum of Inuit Art began its docent program in winter 2012, and we are now thrilled to offer regularly scheduled tours for the public!

We asked some of our docents which pieces they love to talk about and why:


Christine with Bart Hanna's (1948- ) "Sedna", 2009, stone and ivory, MIA Collection.

Christine was MIA’s first docent to give a public tour! When asked which piece she likes to talk about with visitors, she chose Bart Hanna’s Sedna: “This piece is beautiful and the ornate details give it a decorative appeal. Actually, the style of carving reminds me of Indian art. The figure is sensually positioned with its flirtatious curves, and I love how the artist has interpreted the traditional goddess, Sedna, as masculine with his beard and small chest. The animals Sedna is breathing life into are rendered with sweeping gusto in beautiful ivory. In fact, the artist has a deep connection to the material, as he actually hunts every walrus whose tusks (ivory) he uses in his artwork.”

Watch MIA’s Educational Coordinator, Alysa Procida, interview artist Bart Hanna here.


Nadia with Mattiusi Iyaituk's (1950- ) "Mermaid, Inuurlamiluuq, Wondering What She Is Looking At" 2010, stone, caribou antler, muskox horn, MIA Collection

Our docent Nadia likes to talk about Mattiusi Iyaituk’s piece “because it incorporates various materials from so many different animals to create something new. It also incorporates natural forms, such as the curve of the antler to look like a hands and a tail, and muskox horn (typically resembling birds) resembling the hair of the mermaid. There are very modern elements, and the forms are very simplistic, very smooth, and almost edible.  Mattiusi Iyaituk said, ‘When you look at my sculpture, you don’t understand all of it. That way you have the freedom to dream. Everyone has their own opinions about art.’  He was definitely a dreamer when me made his piece come to life in the most creative and unexpected ways.”

Come by MIA and find out what we are talking about next!

– By Emma Ward, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer