Whose artwork is it anyway?
Divvying up the artistic assets may be difficult

by Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 09/98) - It's kind of like deciding who gets to keep the kids and the house during a divorce settlement.

Except it involves 64,000 people, one-third of Canada's land and a hefty collection of artwork.

Edward Picco first raised the issue of the legislative assembly's arts and crafts collection and its fate after territorial division during a recent session of the assembly.

The MLA for Iqaluit asked Premier Don Morin if some of the art that originally came from Nunavut would go back to Nunavut on April 1, 1999.

"I told Mr. Morin that several times I would take constituents from Iqaluit on tours of the building and they remarked on all the art and asked what would happen to it after division. There's arts, crafts, wall hangings, seal tapestries, carvings, all kinds of things," said Picco from his office in Iqaluit.

Morin told Picco that most of the pieces of art were gifts from the residents of the NWT and were kept in the legislative building on behalf of those same people.

In reply, Picco said that some of the pieces were in fact purchased by the government and inaccessible to many residents across the North.

"Some items were gifts but a lot of it was purchased and the only time most people would get to see it is when they are in Yellowknife," said Picco.

"They are Nunavut in origin and many of the carvings have historical significance attached to them. Many of them are 25 to 30 years old and were done before carvings became so well known," he said.

Picco wants Morin to see if some kind of arrangement can be made that will permit some of the arts and crafts to be sent back to Nunavut. He also wanted to know what would happen to the ceremonial mace.

"Even if they could be sent back to Nunavut on a lend-lease program."

The premier said he would ask Sam Gargan, the speaker of the legislative assembly, to look into the matter and while Gargan couldn't be reached for comment, his executive assistant Mark Dickey said that "as far as I know, he hasn't made a decision on that."

Doug Schauerte, the deputy clerk of the legislative assembly, says the issue of the division of possessions is of significance around the territories.

"Across the government, I know the group officials are looking at the assets and the liabilities and rolled into the assets is the artwork and the government's possessions," says Schauerte. "The issue of art is being approached across the government and we're part of that discussion," said Schauerte, referring to the issue currently before the assembly.

Schauerte said the matter will be addressed by the five-person Management and Services board made up of MLAs and chaired by Gargan. The board is responsible for the management of the legislative building and by extension, its artwork.

"Ed's statement probably gave them reason to think about it," said Schauerte.