Tag Archives: MIA

Adopt an Object: Untitled (Walrus Amulet)

14 Jan
Walrus amulet

This walrus amulet from the  Thule period is part of the MIA’s new Adopt an Object fundraising initiative.

As part of  the MIA’s new fundraising initiative ‘Adopt an Object’, we’ll be highlighting a featured item from our Permanent Collection that staff have chosen to represent some of  the unique pieces we display in the museum. For more information on the program itself and what it means to be a donor, you can check out our past blog post.

Today, we’re highlighting a staff favourite – a walrus amulet.

Artist: Unidentified
Arctic Canada
Date: Thule Period (1000 – c.1650)
Medium: Ivory, pigment
Dimensions:  H 0.5″ x W 1.5″ x D 0.5″
Collection: MIA Collection

Significance: This piece was created by the Thule who are the direct ancestors of modern Inuit. The Walrus Amulet is one of the more figural pieces in our collection from this period, which is quite unique as most Thule art is more abstract and utilitarian. Help us preserve one of our oldest and most sensitive pieces in the collection by adopting this piece.

Adoption rate: $150

To adopt this piece, contact our curator Alysa at aprocida [at] miamuseum [do-t] ca.

UPDATE: This piece has recently been adopted by a generous donor and is no longer available. 


Posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Get Free Admission to MIA, Thanks to Justin Bieber

28 Jul

By now, you may have read my last blog about what we can learn from Justin Bieber’s comments from a Rolling Stone article about his possible indigenous heritage. In case you haven’t, he is quoted in Rolling Stone as saying:

I’m actually part Indian,” he says — “I think Inuit or something? I’m enough percent that in Canada I can get free gas.”

MIA invites Justin Bieber for a tour

Part of our outreach to the Biebs

Our response was just one of many – many people across Canada and on the internet are upset about this evidently offhand remark that was not even the focus on the article in question. Some articles question why, precisely, the remark was upsetting, but I think we covered that in my earlier blog. The real question is: what do we do about it?

This is important because Justin Bieber’s remarks are emblematic of a pervasive confusion many Canadians (and others) have about Aboriginal peoples within Canada. We reached out to Bieber himself (you can see our Tweet to him above), as well as the editors of Rolling Stone asking for a correction to be published. But that doesn’t really seem like enough.

So we’re offering complimentary admission through the end of August for fans of Justin Bieber and anyone else who would like to learn about Aboriginal cultures. All you have to do is come to our front desk and say “No Free Gas But Free Admission”. And spread the word using “#NoFreeGasButFreeAdmission” on Twitter – the more people who can come, the better.

We may not be able to offer you free gas, but we can offer you free admission – and maybe a glimpse of Justin Bieber himself.

Update: If you tweet an accurate fact about Inuit or First Nations art or history with the hashtag #nofreegasbutfreeadmission, you can pick up a complimentary copy of our book Inuit Art in Canada during your visit.

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

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

Spotlight on Volunteers: Sophie

15 May

At the Museum of Inuit Art, we greatly appreciate the time and effort of our volunteers contribute in ensuring the museum meets its mission and mandate. On any given week, we have approximately thirty volunteers, all of whom come from a variety of backgrounds and are an amazing asset to MIA. We asked some of our volunteers to share their museum experiences with us. First volunteer that we’d like to introduce you to is Sophie. Sophie not only helped out a great deal at the Front Desk but also did translation for our MIA Magazine that came out in January 2012. We’ve included the interview below in English and French as it was translated by Sophie!

Volunteer Sophie in the entrance of the Museum of Inuit Art
Sophie has been volunteering at the Museum since May 2011

Q: How did you first get involved with MIA and what do you like most about volunteering here?

A: I decided to give some of my time to the museum thanks to another volunteer, Juliana that I know outside of MIA who told me how amazing it is to work at the museum. What I love the most is the atmosphere. The staff and the volunteers get along very well, everybody is nice, and the surrounding art is beautiful.

Q: If you could tell our readers something about MIA what would it be?

A: The MIA is a wonderful museum that you cannot ignore. It is a hidden gem in Toronto

Q: Can you tell us about a particularly interesting experience that you’ve had during your time at MIA? 

A: I had the chance to be involved in the first edition of the MIA Magazine as the French Translator. The museum gave me this incredible opportunity to start my translator career and I am very grateful for that.

Q: Quels ont été vos premiers pas envers le musée et que préférez-vous le plus en tant que bénévole?

R: J’ai décidé de devenir bénévole au musée grâce à une autre bénévole, Juliana, que je connais en dehors du musée et qui m’a dit à quel point il est fabuleux de travailler au musée. Ce que je préfère le plus, c’est l’atmosphère. Les employés et les bénévoles s’entendent tous très bien, tout le monde est très gentil et puis l’art qui nous entoure est magnifique.

Q: Si vous pouviez dire quelque chose à nos lecteurs à propos du MAI, de quoi s’agirait-il?

R: Le MAI est un musée merveilleux et surtout incontournable. Il s’agit d’une pierre précieuse de Toronto bien cachée.

Q : Pouvez-vous nous raconter une expérience intéressante en particulier que vous avez vécue au MAI?

R: J’ai eu la chance d’être impliquée dans la première édition du MIA Magazine en tant que traductrice vers le français. Le musée m’a offert cette incroyable opportunité de pouvoir débuter ma carrière et j’en suis très reconnaissante.

Most recently, Sophie had to leave her position at the Front Desk to move to France. From all of us at the Museum we wish her, her husband and doggie all the best in their new life overseas! You’re greatly missed!


Posted by: Karolina Tomaszewska, Development Officer


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

Interactive Intern Insights

7 May

Hello again! It’s week 2 of my internship and now that I’ve got the full run through of MIA’s inner workings, it’s time to get cracking on my summer project.

One of the many things I’ll be working on over the next few weeks is building on all the social media sites the MIA is connected with. I’ve already written a few Tweets (and found some written about me!), posted some links about upcoming local events, and figured out how Hootsuite works.

Museum visitors may have also noticed that our virtual interests go beyond these social media sites and appear throughout the museum. As a recent smartphone purchaser I’m the type person you’d see scanning any QR (Quick Response) codes in sight, and our exhibitions are no exception. I think it’s great that people can personalize their experience by pressing a few buttons to find more information about a particular object or artist. QR codes mean that people aren’t limited to what is presented in ‘Tombstone’ labels – an affectionate term we in the museum biz call those short labels that tell you the title, artist, and date. Scanning the bizarrely patterned QR codes can reveal videos, audio clips, and other images.

Like the Bart Hannah “Drum Dancer” we have in our lobby!

Bart Hannah’s ‘Drum Dancer’ at the entrance of MIA.

By scanning this QR code, you can access an interactive website featuring a map of his hometown of Iglulik, photos of the sculpture in various stages, and a video interview with our Education Coordinator Alysa Procida.

Using my Android Galaxy S to scan the Bart Hanna QR code.

Linked to the Youtube video of Alysa’s interview with Bart Hanna.

QR codes are still a bit new to many Canadian museums, with lots of different institutions trying to figure out how best to handle the technology. We have used our codes as an alternative to an audio tour, but we’re still on the hunt for other technologies that can enhance a trip through our collection. In fact, last month Alysa Procida and one of our volunteers Rob Mausser headed out to San Diego for the Museums and the Web conference where they gave a presentation on our QR code project. You can read a copy of it here and get a sneak peak at some new ideas we have for the future.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss,  MIA’s Educational Assistant

Celebrating Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok

6 May

Last month, the art world lost a renowned and important voice: Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok passed away on April 12 at the age of 77. Born in Nunalla, Manitoba in 1934, she was part of the Ihalmiut group of Inuit in the Kivalliq region. Eventually, she moved to Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet) where she met Richard Tutsweetok. They eventually settled in Arviat, where swiftly become one of the most defining voices of Inuit art.

Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok

Tasseor is best known for her sculptures, which helped to set an artistic standard for Kivalliq sculptural style along with artists like John Pangnark and Andy Miki. Using hard steatite, she created abstract yet deeply moving works. Like many artists working with tough stone in the region, she worked with the stone rather than against it. Instead of sculpting detailed, realistic sculptures, Tasseor instead would sculpt minimalist figures that appeared to emerge from the stone using incised lines for added detail. Often, her process was visible on the stone: file marks were left exposed, showing her hand and the human effort it took to create the piece.

Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok “Faces” (2001)

Though abstract, Tasseor’s work often focuses on the themes of familial and community relationships. Her figures rarely exist in isolation, but rather emerge in groups from the stone. Her careful handling of the spatial relationships between the figures transforms the cold stone into a warm examination of the importance of relationships to Arctic life. Tasseor was a well-respected elder in her community who helped to support many living in Arviat, so her focus on relationships seems to be an extension of her own life.

Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok “Family” (1980s) in the Sprott/MIA Collection

Though known primarily for her sculpture, Tasseor also created other art forms. For example, she drew on occasion and demonstrated in another medium her unique artistic voice. Her colourful works stand in stark contrast to her grey sculptures, but they share a certain warmth and her unique perspective.

Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok “Woman Wanted Her Child and the Spirit Tried to Stop Her” (c. 2000s), Private Collection on loan to MIA

Last year, MIA showcased Tasseor’s work as part of our “Focus On” series of exhibitions and many of those pieces are still on display inside our permanent exhibition area. We also installed a large sculpture of hers as a hands-on opportunity, so the next time you are here you can take a moment and closely examine her work. In addition to MIA, Tasseor’s work is included in many public collections, which is a testament to her skill as an artist.

Our condolences go out to her friends and family; she will certainly be missed.

Posted by Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator