The federal government on Tuesday promised a $15 million contribution to the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Inuit Art Centre, which will house and display the world's largest collection of Inuit art.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr made the announcement at the WAG, which is building the four-storey, 40,000-square-foot Inuit Art Centre south of its existing facility. The centre will house Inuit and Indigenous galleries, a vault, five studios and space for artist and curator residencies.

Carr touted the centre as an important cultural amenity for Nunavut and an important tourism draw for Winnipeg.

"It builds on what we already believe to be an exciting array of opportunities for people who come, and much of that will be within walking distance of here," Carr said.


The federal government announced a $15-million commitment toward the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Inuit Art Centre. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Construction could begin as early as 2017. The city has pledged $5 million toward the project, while the province's commitment is $15 million. The Pallister government, which has placed most funding commitments under review, did not send a representative to take part in the announcement, though Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard was present in the audience.

WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys said he will not read anything into the limited Pallister-government presence.

"I'm not really concerned. They have obligations. We're in almost daily dialogue with them on this project. They're well aware of it, and I expect a very positive outcome very soon," Borys said.

Carr called the WAG's collection of Inuit art the most important of its kind on the planet and said displaying it properly is a priority for the Trudeau government. He said he hopes other levels of government will appreciate that.

In a statement, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Rochelle Squires said while she has met with the WAG, the province is still reviewing its commitments.

"Our department is undertaking the development of a comprehensive cultural strategy and policy framework which will create a plan in which culture and heritage remain a top priority for our new government," she said in the statement.

"Our government recognizes the importance of our province's diverse cultural offerings and we appreciate the WAG's understanding as we continue to engage on a value for money audit of commitments of taxpayer dollars."

Jim Carr on feds contribution of $15M to WAG's Inuit Art Centre0:45

The Winnipeg Foundation and BMO have promised $1 million each toward the centre. If the provincial commitment stands, roughly $48 million of the $60 million needed for the centre has been pledged.

The centre will provide display space for artwork and artifacts that have been in storage for decades, both at the WAG and in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. The formation of Nunavut in 1999 left the latter collection outside the territory that owns it. 

Inuit Art Centre DO NOT USE

The proposed Inuit Art Centre at the WAG is seen in this artist's rendering. (Rendering by Michael Maltzan Architecture)