The cutting edge of art
New inventory fund improves marketing and well-being

by Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 20/98) - The Northwest Territories is on the cutting edge of marketing as far as the art world is concerned.

In honor of the Nunavut Mining Symposium held earlier this month, the Community Wellness Centre in Cambridge Bay planned a project that would help to effectively market the artistic endeavors of its residents.

"We didn't have a name for it but what we were trying to do was support local artists. The mayor really wanted to support the sale of local art during the mining symposium," says Pat File, the co-ordinator of the Community Wellness Centre.

In light of the impending 250 visitors, she developed a project which, for the time being, is called the inventory fund.

"For example, we pre-purchased $100 worth of your work. We prepaid half of the sale price and signed something that said when the art sold, we'd pay the remaining half minus 10 per cent to go to the inventory fund," says File.

"After that, until we sell what we purchase, we can't give you anymore. Now you've generated $10 to the inventory fund and in theory, then we'll be able to purchase $110 worth of your work next time you sell us something," says File.

"We knew that the people coming into the community were interested in purchasing locally made arts and crafts. We wanted to encourage the artists to do this and not be held back because of lack of supplies or to be bargained down because they needed the money for things that are important to them. So this way, they get the money up front and money later when we've sold it," says File.

Winnie Ohokak says the project couldn't have come along at a better time for her.

"At the time, I needed money right away and she gave me a little bit and then when I finished sewing it, she sold it. She sells them for me and they took 10 per cent," says Ohokak on a break from sewing her wallhangings.

"I thought it was good because when I needed money, she gave me some and when she sold it, I got the rest," says Ohokak who adds that File's program has also helped her get the materials she needs to begin her sewing projects.

"I know it's hard getting material. I'm sewing some wallhangings now and she gave me three metres and I'll have to pay her for it after I sell them. If it wasn't for her giving me the stroud, I'd have nothing to sew," says Ohokak.

"It's good, I like it like that because I don't have to pay so much. I just have to pay her the $75 but if I bought it here, I'd have to pay way over a $100."

Ohokak says the program helped her to develop quite a substantial client base that will improve her economic situation.

"I get more orders now that I'm selling through her. Tourist season is coming soon and I want to pile up and I can now that I have the materials."

File says Ohokak is just one of the artists her program managed to help. She says that in total, they were able to support seven artists who produced 35 pieces of art ranging from wallhangings to muskox horn carvings. File says the gross earnings totalled more than $2,500 and that the inventory fund had managed to bank $240 so far.

File says that because of the tremendous success of the pilot project, she is looking for ways to permanently implement the project which helps to promote a sense of well-being in her hamlet.

"Creative work is really a big part of wellness, spiritually and socially, and it gives the artists cultural pride. The carvings depict cultural scenes and there's a real pride in that. The spiritual side we think is a positive one to foster," says File.

Ohokak readily agrees.

"If I have something to sew, I won't be sitting around doing nothing, being bored. I get so bored and cranky."

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