North West Company donates $2 million to Inuit Art Centre in Winnipeg

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The North West Company (NWC), which owns the NorthMart and Northern stores in Nunavut, and its leadership are donating $2 million to the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), the gallery announced June 12.

The funds will go toward the creation of a community plaza at WAG’s Inuit Art Centre (IAC).

The North West Company and its leadership, which owns the NorthMart and Northern stores in Nunavut and other communities, donated $2 million to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre. The money will go toward a community plaza.
photo courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture

“We are committed to strengthening communities. We see the Inuit Art Centre playing an important role towards this goal, for Inuit and other Indigenous peoples, for all Canadians and for people around the world who will be exposed to the IAC,” stated NWC president and chief executive officer Edward Kennedy.

The commitment aims to help the gallery build cultural and economic bridges between northern and southern Canada and create understanding through personal connections, stories and art.

“This gift will amplify Inuit voices, and ensure Inuit stories are told and heard,” according to the release.

The community plaza is planned to be located next to the new building, “as an outdoor, accessible, art-filled space for all to enjoy, and an inviting welcome into the centre.”

The donors, along with the company itself, include Kennedy, Stella Kennedy, board chairperson H Sanford Riley, Deborah Riley, former chairperson Ian Sutherland, Judy Sutherland, and the late J. Derek Riley, founding chairperson of The North West Company.

“The WAG Inuit Art Centre will be a new home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world, allowing it to be shared. It will also have significant economic, social, and cultural return for Manitobans and Canadians,” according to the release.

“The WAG Inuit Art Centre seeks to be a home in which all Inuit are comfortable sharing their art and culture, as well as their stories, histories and their futures, with the world.”

The new 40,000 square foot, four-storey centre, at a cost of $65 million, will include exhibition spaces, a glass-enclosed visible art vault, a conservation facility, art studios, a two-level interactive theatre, classrooms, and more.

“With over 13,000 carvings, drawings, prints, textiles, and new media, the WAG holds in trust the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art. The collection is supported by an unparalleled record of Inuit art exhibitions, publications, and research,” according to the release.

The centre is scheduled to open in 2020.

“I feel it is imperative that those of us who work extensively in the North give back and support projects that can make a difference economically and culturally. This is one such project. I’m proud to be a part of it, as I know was my uncle Derek Riley,” stated Riley.