Tag Archives: rankin inlet

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

The Running Date at MIA!

15 Oct

Today we were very excited to have the participants of the Running Date (http://runningdate.ca) visit the museum as one of their stops in this competition inspired by the Amazing Race designed specifically for couples.

In order to complete the challenge at the museum, one member of the couple team had to find a sculpture in the museum and sculpt this same piece using some play-doh.

A participant in the Running Date sculpts her play-doh masterpiece.

Another participant proudly showing his sculpture for the Running Date competition.

Next, the other team member  had to sketch the play-doh sculpture, and then try to match their sketch to the original sculpture in the museum. Once a successful match was made, the team  had completed the challenge and could move on to their next stop in the competition.

Running Date volunteer Damien with one happy team who has successfully completed the MIA challenge.

We had a great time hosting this challenge for the event, and I must say, we were quite impressed by the artistic talents of the Running Date competitors!

Some play-doh sculptures made by teams from Running Date.

– Posted by: Kate Mossman, MIA’s Development Officer

Trip Update

23 Sep

Hello, everyone!

Sorry I’ve been away from the blog for a few days – we’ve been incredibly busy here. We got to go out on the land near Rankin Inlet yesterday – pictures are uploading to Flickr right now. We got to see a traditional sod house, or qammaq recreated by local elders, as well as lots of snow geese, Canadian geese and another siksiq, or Arctic ground squirrel. Unlike the last one, which was hidden in the grass, this one came right up to us – because we were between it and its burrow.

In addition, we’ve been spending time getting to know all of the artists at the Matchbox Gallery and Kangirqliniq Centre for Learning and Arts. As part of our project development here, I’ve been interviewing all of the artists and it has been amazingly rewarding so far. We’ll be sharing parts of those interviews over the coming weeks.

Interviewing John Kurok

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educa 

Ceramic Production Part 1

20 Sep

Today was a huge day for us here in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). As I mentioned yesterday, we had been popping by the Matchbox Gallery last weekend, but today we were there the whole day in order to do some work. Part of that work is documenting and researching some of their collection and part of it is getting to know the artists and share their process with you.

From left to right: Phillip Ugjuk, Jack Nuviak, Amauyah Noah and Jim Shirley sketching

First, a bit of background on the program. The Government of the Northwest Territories set up a ceramics program in Rankin Inlet in 1963 in order to provide jobs for local Inuit when the nearby Nickel Mine shut down (this was before the creation of Nunavut, when the NWT was administering the area). The program encountered several obstacles – things as basic as obtaining clay were challenges. There is local clay available, but the labor costs to process it are extremely high. Eventually, that program closed. In the 1980s, Jim Shirley came to the community and was inspired to begin another program. With his wife Sue, he opened the Matchbox Gallery in 1987 and revived ceramics making here.

The Kangirqliniq Centre for Learning and Arts operates with the same people on the same premises as the Matchbox. The KCLA realizes the Shirleys vision of artistic production: a communal, collaborative program that is supportive, holistic and enriching. Each day, artists begin by journaling in order to externalize and process whatever they are feeling; then, they do brief math and reading exercises. These activities perform several essential functions: they help to increase analytical and problem-solving skills, have clear real world enrichment and help to build self-confidence. With this base, everyone then completes some drawing exercises – often still lifes and portraits. These skills are the foundations of the program – the spatial reasoning needed to draw successfully translates into other art forms. Then, individual artists work on their own projects.

Today, we were able to participate in this process which was a true honor. Instead of simply documenting works, we really were integrated into the activities today. For example, today’s portrait subject was our Director, David.

(From left to right:) Philip Ugjuk, Helen Iguptak, Amauyah Noah, Jack Nuviak, Jim Shirley and David Harris look at sketches - of David.

I should also clarify something I said early – not exactly everyone participates in the drawing exercises. Veteran ceramicist Yvo Samgushak had no time or interest in sketching and instead moved directly to working on his own work. He later communicated to me that he though drawing was crazy (Yvo is deaf and communicates primarily using Inuktitut sign language).

Yvo Samgushak focuses on his own work while Jack Nuviak (left) and Jim Shirley sketch in the background.

In addition to Yvo, John Kurok, Jack Nuviak, Helen Iguptak, Amauyah Noah and Phillip Ugjuk were working, as well as Jim and Sue. The emphasis on collaboration in the studio was clear: Helen and Amauyah, for example, normally create dolls and prints, respectively. Today, they were working on creating clay masks. They helped each other, asked Phillip about sculpting noses and had input from John and Jack, too. There was lots of laughter in the studio. And just amazing material being created.

Amauyah Noah (left) and Helen Iguptak helping each other create masks.

They are all extremely gracious and friendly and I’m extremely grateful that they allowed me to photograph and film them working. I have to edit the movies before they go up on Youtube, but the photos are up on Facebook and Flickr currently. I further get the opportunity to speak to them individually this week about their work – if you have questions you’d like me to ask, let me know. I will keep posting updates as we work through the week  – if the rest of the week is anything like today, we are all in for some real treats.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

On The Tundra

18 Sep

Today was a big day for us here in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). We spent most of the day at the Matchbox Gallery, which specializes in the production of ceramics. We spoke to co-founder Jim Shirley about their approach to ceramics and what he calls the “literacy of touch” – the idea that there is a kind of language incorporated into building something with clay, that there is a kind of magic to the clay where every imprint and touch is visible. John Kurok also stopped by to work on a piece, which was exciting to see. We are going back tomorrow, so I will save most of the discussion of our visit for then.

Director David Harris at the Matchbox Gallery

Me at the Matchbox Gallery

Afterward, I had the opportunity to take a walk outside the community and onto the tundra. Now, I did not go out on the land – this was very close to Kangirqliniq – but the difference between this area and the community-proper was pretty stark. It was quiet, peaceful and full of plant and animal life – there really wasn’t anyone else around. I must have seen four or five siksiq (Arctic ground squirrels) while we were walking around and many more burrows.

Look carefully - you can see the squirrel in the grass.

Many people think the Arctic is always snow and ice, but that’s a misconception. There is a wide array of plant life there – grass, lichen, moss, flowers, berries… Walking along, it’s actually very squishy, which I didn’t expect.

I also saw an old tent ring – these were used hundreds of years ago to hold down tent flaps before the influence of qalunaat and the introduction of year-round housing. The entrance can be seen on the right side of the photo.

The old remains of a tent ring

I hope this gave you a glimpse into what the tundra is like and what kind of diversity you can find there. I’ve uploaded some extra photos of our trip to Facebook and Flickr, so check them out.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Differences In The Arctic: Cost of Living

18 Sep

We have been here less than 24 hours and already the differences between life in southern Canada and in the Arctic are revealing themselves. The major one that I’ve noticed by now is that it is shocking how much basic things cost here compared to their costs in Toronto.

I’ve seen the statistics before: the ITK released a very helpful list in 2008 of what basics costs in various southern and northern communities (see page 10) and the disparities are astounding (Side note: the rest of the statistics in the report are more than worth reading – it may be eye opening for you). The average cost of living in the Arctic is estimated to be between two and three times greater than it is in southern Canada.

However, I must admit now that I’m here the statistics did not adequately convey just how expensive it is here. Beyond the cost of travel to the Arctic (and back) and lodging (which is always at a premium), basic costs that you may not give much thought to in the city are very differently priced here.

Consider this: Rankin Inlet is a very small place compared to Toronto, but we don’t know our way around yet. We have taken a taxi twice and each ride was approximately 5 minutes long. Each cost $15. Why? Fuel is expensive and must be imported – and yes, fuel is imported to Toronto as well, but with very different infrastructure and frequency.

Then, there’s the food. Take a look at our menu from last night:

Check out the prices. This is not just for tourists, either – this is how much it costs for local people to eat there. The Saturday special was a chili cheese burger, poutine and a slice of pie for $22.95.

We haven’t been to the grocery store yet, but when we do I will report back. I suspect the prices will be equivalent – our very nice flight attendants on the way up gave us a back of extra fruit because they can be so expensive. I’ll continue to report back as the week goes on.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

We’re Here!

17 Sep

Hello from Nunavut!

MIA Director David Harris and I just arrived in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). While we’re getting settled, I’m excited to update you about the trip so far. If you keep up with our Twitter and Facebook feeds, you’ll know that yesterday we landed in Winnipeg, since you can’t get a direct flight to anywhere in the Arctic from Toronto. Rankin serves as the regional “hub” for the Kivalliq region, as I discussed last week, so many people fly here (from Winnipeg) and continue on to other destinations in the region.

While at the Winnipeg airport, we saw out first sign in syllabics, which I posted yesterday. Though it was nice to see syllabics, the sign is for the Kivalliq Inuit Centre Medical Transportation Pick-Up Area, as you can see. Though there is health care in the Arctic, there is no major hospital in the Kivalliq so when people have specialized or serious health needs, they often must fly south.

We spent the day in Winnipeg and then this morning flew to Rankin. This is my first experience flying up north, so I was (naively) surprised to learnt that we may  not have ended up in Rankin at all today. Due to low visibility weather conditions, we may have had to divert to Churchill, Manitoba, or simply turn back around to Winnipeg and try again later. We boarded the plane with high hopes anyway.

Thankfully, the weather cleared up by the time we made it here so we were able to land. It was quite overcast, so we couldn’t see much on our descent until we were quite low. But as we did, the tundra opened up underneath us and it was amazing – just beautiful, and such a different kind of environment than we have in Toronto.

View of Rankin Inlet from the plane

So now that we’re here, it’s time to get down to work. Keep checking back, I’ll be blogging about our trip the whole week.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator