Check out Inuit art inside the Canadian High Arctic Research Station

When Canada's top Arctic research centre finally opens its doors to the public in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, visitors will be greeted by Inuit art.

Inuit art inside research facility is waiting for its debut to the public

The 'Elder and Polar Bear' carving is by Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley of Cape Dorset, Nunavut. The carving is one of several art installations in the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Karen McColl/CBC)

When Canada's world-class Arctic research centre finally opens its doors to the public in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, visitors will be greeted by Inuit art at first glance.

The copper sheeting on the outside of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) is a tribute to the Copper Inuit — people of Victoria and Banks Island in the Arctic who made tools from copper. A carving of an elder and a polar bear welcomes visitors at the front door, and nearly all walls and floors in public spaces are adorned with drawings and designs.

Polar Knowledge Canada, the federal agency that operates the research station, says the building's architect held two pan-northern competitions for art to be featured in the facility.

Polar Knowledge Canada says the copper sheeting on the outside of the station pays tribute to the Copper Inuit, people who occupied Victoria and Banks Island in the North and made tools from copper. (Karen McColl/CBC)

Operations manager Grant Redvers said about a third of the main research building will be open to the public — which includes a multi-purpose room, teaching lab and cafe.

The Knowledge Sharing Centre is a room built with an igloo design in mind with rounded walls and benches in a circular formation. It has technology to allow for live translations.

It's the station's "jewel in the crown," said Redvers.

Tim Pitsiulak from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, designed the whale seen here and schools of fish that decorate other areas of the research facility. Pitsiulak's work has has been featured in galleries across the country. His artwork at the research station was the last major piece he did before he died in December 2016. (Karen McColl/CBC)

"We can definitely see that this space is going to facilitate a lot of good discussions between scientists that visit the facility and locals in the community," he said.

Grand opening to be determined

The station is largely operational and has been to some degree for three years, but visits from the public must be arranged ahead of time. The main entrance is blocked by a mass of tarps and construction.

Redvers said about 30 scientists and operations staff are working at the facility now. Research is underway on everything from permafrost monitoring to ecosystem mapping.

The drawing on the wall of the Knowledge Sharing Centre is called 'Many Stories' by Ningiukulu Teevee from Cape Dorset, Nunavut. On the floor is 'Drum Dancers' by Sammy Kudluk of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik. (Karen McColl/CBC)

Dr. Martin Raillard, Polar Knowledge chief scientist, said this year the station has supported researchers from nine countries who collectively spent more than 2,200 days in the field.

Although Polar Knowledge Canada runs the building, the Department of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada manages the construction. 

This glass etching is by Bobby Anavilok of Kugluktuk, Nunavut. (Karen McColl/CBC)

The grand opening date has already been pushed back several times. The department said construction is 95 per cent complete and is expected to be done in 2019. It said the date of the official opening has not been scheduled.

In the meantime, the sounds of footsteps and voices echo off the building's high ceilings.

Redvers said he looks forward to the time when the halls of the station are buzzing with people and energy. 

The design of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station's Knowledge Sharing Centre references a stylized summer tent. It's made of material from across Canada, including timber. (Kate Kyle/CBC)