A bridge to the North

The Win­nipeg Art Gallery breaks ground on new Inuit Art Cen­tre.

Canada's History - - CURRENTS -

For years, the Win­nipeg Art Gallery (WAG) has been con­sid­ered a world-renowned hub for con­tem­po­rary Inuit art, with more sculp­tures and prints than it has ever had room to dis­play.

Now con­struc­tion is un­der­way for a new Inuit Art Cen­tre (IAC) that will show­case the mu­seum’s in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion.

Dar­lene Coward Wight, cu­ra­tor of Inuit art, has spent years work­ing in the base­ment of the gallery, sur­rounded by the thir­teen-thou­sand-piece col­lec­tion. She is ex­cited to fi­nally share th­ese works with the pub­lic and hopes the cen­tre will help to cre­ate deeper un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Inuit art and cul­ture.

“Many of us don’t get to go north, so we feel this will help peo­ple un­der­stand the cul­ture of the re­gion, through this art,” Wight said. “We’re not just look­ing at it as a place to show art — we’re look­ing at it as a place … to have a meet­ing of cul­tures.”

The new cen­tre will quadru­ple the amount of space for stu­dent learn­ing and strengthen the ex­ist­ing art pro­gram­ming of the gallery. New stu­dios will pro­vide space for art- ists to cre­ate art in-house, while teach­ing oth­ers their craft.

The de­sign for the $65-mil­lion cen­tre was cre­ated by Los An­ge­les ar­chi­tect Mitchell Maltzan. His orig­i­nal de­sign for the build­ing was quite geo­met­ric, said Wight, but Maltzan’s vi­sion be­gan to trans­form upon vis­it­ing the North.

In 2013, Wight led Maltzan and the gallery’s di­rec­tor and CEO, Stephen Borys, into the small Inuit vil­lage of Pang­nir­tung, lo­cated on Baf­fin Is­land. Wight said Maltzan was struck by the land­scape of the north­ern fjords.

“He just sud­denly re­al­ized the build­ing had to be more re­flec­tive of the North,” she said. “The shape of the ice­bergs re­ally in­spired him.”

The north­ern in­flu­ence is ev­i­dent in the ef­fort­less curves and peaks along the build­ing’s fa­cade. The in­stal­la­tion of dozens of cir­cu­lar sky­lights on the build­ing’s roof were in­spired by the in­ten­sity Arc­tic light.

The IAC is ex­pected to open in 2019.

Con­cep­tual draw­ings of the Inuit Art Cen­tre high­light the ar­chi­tect’s use of nat­u­ral light and open-con­cept de­sign.

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