When Winnipeg's Inuit Art Centre opens its doors, Stephen Borys says it will be "more than a gallery."
"It's also a place for learning, exploration, education, training. But most importantly we'd like to think of it as a forum and a place for the Inuit voice to be heard in the South," says the director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery already has 14,000 Inuit prints, carvings, statues and other art pieces, making up half of its entire collection. It's billed as the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.
Borys and the team behind the proposed centre hope the creation of a dedicated home for Inuit art will bring international acclaim to artists from across the circumpolar world.
"At the highest level, the Inuit Art Centre in Winnipeg will, I believe, raise the profile of an extraordinary culture nationally and internationally," says Borys.
"But... I'd like to think that there will be activities, associations, partnerships, training, that will be taking place in Winnipeg and in the Arctic."
The total cost of constructing the building, which will be connected to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, as well as creating long-term programming and a significant endowment is pegged at $65 million.
Borys says WAG has already raised $10 million in private donations and is looking for support from the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Borys says he hopes to break ground for the centre within the next two years.
A centre for and by Inuit
But the brick and mortar building is just the beginning.
During January, Borys visited several Nunavut communities and met with artists, co-ops, art organizations and government leaders to discuss programming and partnerships that have already begun.
"My trip this time is to meet with people, to understand better how we can serve them, how we can serve the community, how we can partner, but also how we raise the profile of Inuit art and culture in the South," says Borys.
This April, the Winnipeg Art Gallery will launch an exchange called "The Bridge," where artists from Baker Lake will travel to Winnipeg and southern artists will travel to Nunavut. Borys says a new ceramics project is also in the works in Rankin Inlet, and a large piece had just been commissioned from an artist in Pangnirtung.
"The idea that the next generation of curators of Inuit art will be of Inuit descent is critical," he says.
"The WAG will lend all of its intelligence, all of its skills and its facilities and I think it will benefit, not just the profile, the reputation of Inuit art, but also the people involved in the art themselves."