A major fundraiser was held in Toronto last week for a new cultural centre and print shop in Cape Dorset.
The planned building would be 10,000 square feet and will be named after the renowned Cape Dorset artist Kenojuak Ashevak, who died in 2013.
- VIDEO: Scroll down to watch a video created as part of the fundraising campaign.
Jimmy Manning is president of the Inuit Art Foundation and a former manager of the print shop.
He was one of seven people from Cape Dorset who attended the inaugural event at the Art Gallery of Ontario last week, where CIBC donated $200,000 towards the project, and TD Canada Trust pledged another $200,000.
“It is a very good start," Manning told the CBC in Inuktitut. "We will need to hold more fundraising to make this building a reality.”
Many visitors to Cape Dorset are surprised to find world famous artists working in a collection of small, ramshackle buildings that went up in the 1950s.
The community currently has no gallery to display its collection of prints and drawings.
The new building would include artists studios as well as a place to display work.
"It's not just for the community of Cape Dorset. It's going to be very important for visitors that comes from around the world, who come to Cape Dorset to see, to meet the artists,” Manning says.
The idea was first discussed almost 40 years ago.
The project is the result of collaboration between the hamlet, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op and southern curators.
“For many years there has been a dream of a cultural centre at Cape Dorset,” says Patricia Feheley, chair of the Inuit Art Foundation and owner of Feheley Fine Arts, a Toronto gallery with a long history with Cape Dorset artists.
Feheley says the project is now shovel-ready, with architectural drawings and engineering work done, and the hope of shipping some construction materials this summer.
The Inuit Art Foundation has taken charge of collecting donations in southern Canada to move the project forward.
Jim Prentice, a former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development who’s now running for leader of Alberta’s PC party, is chairing the fundraising committee.
Feheley says they approached Prentice with the idea.
“His involvement with this campaign will be ongoing. He has made a commitment to it. He feels very, very strongly about this and so while his day-to-day activities may change, he is fully committed to this fundraising campaign."
Feheley says the goal is to start construction next summer and open the building in 2016.
Nunavut Tunngavik has set aside about $1 million to go towards the project.
"Once the facility is in place, Cape Dorset can take advantage of the many features it has to offer visitors: art and cultural activities, hiking, sea-kayaking, local trips with outfitters, walrus viewing, and archaeological sites," reads a recent NTI newsletter.
"The target market is baby-boomers interested in Inuit art and culture."