Winnipeg Art Gallery building bridges with the North

Photo by Quincy Houdayer

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) announced a $1 million donation from Louise Leatherdale and her late husband, Doug, toward the Inuit Art Centre (IAC) Friday.

Leatherdale’s donation was inspired by her and her husband’s love of Inuit art.

Leatherdale said she saw a need for the creation of a space to showcase the beautiful works of Inuit art which were kept in the basement of the WAG.

The Doug and Louise Leatherdale Gallery will be established in the IAC in recognition of their donation.

The gallery will offer emerging, established and senior artists a new exhibition space, said Stephen Borys, director and CEO of the WAG.
The IAC is currently under construction. Borys said the project is on schedule and on budget. Construction began in May and the centre is set to open in 2020.

The $65 million, 40,000 square foot four-storey addition to the WAG will feature new exhibition spaces, a glass-enclosed visible art vault, a conservation facility, a research centre, art studios and classrooms.
It will showcase the WAG’s extensive Inuit art collection.

The WAG holds the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art with over 13,000 carvings, drawings, prints, textiles and new media.

Ernest Cholakis, chair of the board of directors of the WAG and a speaker Friday, said “the centre and ultimately the art will bridge cultural understanding bringing communities together in celebrating Canada’s natural history and venerating our Indigenous art and civilization.”

The WAG has worked to give voices to Indigenous peoples with the introduction of the Indigenous Advisory Circle.

The circle will provide leadership and counsel in the WAG’s development and planning of the IAC and is co-chaired by Julie Nagam and Heather Igloliorte.

In February of this year, the WAG also announced an all-Inuit curating team for the inaugural exhibitions of the IAC in 2020.

The team will represent the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and Nunavut, the four regions of Inuit Nunangat, and is made up of Igloliorte, Asinnajaq, Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter and Krista Ulujuk Zawadski. The term “Nunangat” is a term used by the Canadian Inuit to refer to the land, water and ice that is a part of their home.

“When you have the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world and you’re situated, for the Inuit, in the south, their voice, that connection, that bridge is critical,” Borys said.

“In fact, their voice has to be the strongest, so we simply consider ourselves like a forum that the Inuit ideas, images, voices will come out. And we just facilitate that.”

Borys said the Leatherdale’s donation signifies that this is an international project and hopes that it will encourage other donations.
“We’re just a beginning,” Leatherdale said.

“There are so many others that I’m sure will want to donate as well and if they know that people find this not just a Winnipeg project, but a Manitoba, Canada, and international [project], they’ll see the significance of this.”