Art goes to the Games
Regional exhibits travel to Arctic Winter Games

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 07/00) - When the Arctic Winter Games get into full swing in Whitehorse, March 5, the works of NWT and Nunavut artists will be exhibited alongside artists' works from seven other Northern regions.

Those areas include Alaska, Yukon, Northern Alberta, Nunavik, Greenland and two Russian provinces, Magadan and Chukotka.

It wasn't an easy task for the people who had the responsibility of choosing which pieces would travel to Whitehorse.

Before determining which works might be representative of the NWT, Joanne Bird, curator of collections at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, had to consider a few purely technical matters.

"One of the things I had to talk to the Yukon Arts Centre about was what kind of space they were going to give each group ... what size exhibit cases do they have," says Bird.

"Right away that provided limitations on what kinds of things to send. And then it was more of a matter of going to our collection and having a look at what we have from the 1990s in the way of art pieces."

Bird chose to get contemporary with her selection, as opposed to showing the historical developments of arts and craft in the territory. She also wanted a fair representation north to south, although it was more difficult in some categories.

"With painting, it was pretty much artists from Yellowknife. Some people though, like Antoine Mountain, are originally from Fort Good Hope."

The museum had been a repository for the Eastern as well as the Western Arctic until April 1, 1999, but Bird had to limit herself solely the Western collection.

"We don't have a lot of contemporary art from the West. We have enough to make an exhibit like we've done, but there's not a lot to choose from. For example, looking at sewing crafts, looking at things like quill working and bead-working skin piecing -- we have a lot from the 1980s, but only four or five examples from the 1990s," she says.

Bird's art selection, which totals 18 pieces, falls into four categories: baskets, sewing arts, sculptures and paintings and drawings.

There are four birchbark baskets, all from Fort Liard, by Marie Kotchea, Mary Kotchea, Karen Kotchea and Sarah Edda.

In the category of sewing crafts, Yellowknifer June Buggins' sewing kit has been included, as well as boots by Jean Kagyut (Holman), moccasins by Sarah Hardisty (Jean Marie River), boots by Margaret Begue (Fort Simpson) and a beaded collar for a graduation gown by Janet Grandjambe (Fort Good Hope.)

The paintings of Sheila Hodgkinson (Yellowknife), Archie Beaulieu (Rae-Edzo), Germaine Arnaktauyok (Yellowknife) and Mona Thrasher (Yellowknife) join Mountain's paintings.

As for sculpture, two have been chosen, one by Bill Nasogaluak (Toktoyaktuk) and one by Dolphus Cadieux (Yellowknife).

In Nunavut, things happened a little differently. A representative of the Arctic Winter Games in Baker Lake contacted David Ford.

Ford runs the Ookpiktuyuk Art Gallery in that community. As an art dealer who has lived in Baker Lake for 20 years ago, he represents many area artists.

"What I tried to do is get a good variety of works, whether it's a wall-hanging or a carving, or a drawing," he says.

When choosing pieces, Ford wanted to ensure the community as a whole as well as its activities were represented.

"I wanted a good variety of what goes on here in Baker Lake ... mother and children, hunting, a couple of animals, a few shaman transformation pieces."

Ford adds he also chose to focus on contemporary work.

"Most of the artists are older artists, though I try to represent the young and the old. And all the works are contemporary and museum quality ... The best of each artist."

Due to the size restriction, Ford had to choose carvings 10 inches or smaller.

A list of Nunavut artists was unavailable as of press time. Please check next week's edition for a list of the artists and their works.

Once the art from across the North reaches Whitehorse, it will fall into the capable hands of the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery manager George Harris, who will then organize and arrange the total exhibit.