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James Houston and the artists of Cape Dorset

The Story

James Houston first traveled to the remote community of Cape Dorset in 1949 in pursuit of his own art. There, he quickly recognized an undiscovered mine of artistic talent among the people of the region and introduced them to art techniques such as print-making. He went on to become the driving force behind a multimillion-dollar art industry, bringing radical change to the Arctic and its inhabitants and profoundly changing his own life. In this 1987 profile by CBC Television's The Fifth Estate, Houston also meets with his old friend Kenojuak, now a renowned print-maker.

Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Sept. 29, 1987
Guests: James Houston, Kenojuak, Osuitok Ipeelee
Reporter: Bob McKeown
Duration: 13:38

Did You know?

• James Archibald Houston was born in Toronto June 12, 1921, and died in Connecticut on April 17, 2005. After serving during the Second World War, he studied in France for a year.  On his return to Canada, he went to the Arctic, and thus began his life-long connection with the people and art of that region. 

• In an article published on April 6, 1961, the Globe and Mail reported that residents of Cape Dorset were reaping happy benefits in the form of "cozy homes" instead of igloos, stoves to cook on instead of open fires, and inner-spring mattresses to sleep on.  The average price of a print was between ten and 75 dollars, with a rising resale value.  In one instance, a print resold for 500 dollars.  The dollars paid for art sales went back into the co-operative fund, and the article notes that some funds allowed for the establishment of a bakery, where local women can now buy bread "as tasty as any produced in Ottawa".



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