North

Inuvik's Great Northern Arts Festival is back. But, it's taking on a new form for 2021

An annual art festival in Inuvik, N.W.T., is making a comeback this summer after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

This year's event will put more focus on artists, but will allow some opportunity for public to participate

Fort Smith artist Michel Labine teaching an Inuvik resident how to make a coin purse at the Great Northern Arts Festival in 2019. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

An annual art festival in Inuvik, N.W.T., is making a comeback this summer after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Great Northern Arts Festival, this year themed "returning to our roots," will take on a slightly different form to comply with the territory's current public health orders, according to the organization.

"It's exciting news that brings hope and some kind of normalcy back to our communities, our region, our territory," said Mary Ann Villeneuve, chair of the Great Northern Arts Festival Society.

"I think a lot of people miss those events."

It's set to feature workshops, seminars and other events specially designed for artists. Organizers say its intended to serve as a "chance for northern artists to safely regroup and reunite" while acknowledging less tourism in the Inuvik region once again this year.

There will be some opportunities for the public to buy art and join in workshops, however, the main focus will be on skill and career development for established and emerging artists, Villeneuve says.

The shorter festival is also a "unique opportunity" for the artists from communities across the Beaufort Delta, who can't normally attend the festival for the full ten days, according to the organizers.

Villeneuve said the festival will take advantage of the new pavilion at the Chief Jim Koe Park.

"This is a great new feature that we will access for our event this summer, and the capacity there is 270 seats, there's the stage," Villeneuve said. "This new area will work into future festivals and, and bring art closer to our audience."

The festival's theme this summer is also meant to look back at its own roots — including its inaugural year in 1989, where northern artists from distant communities who normally had little opportunity to meet, could gather to collaborate and network.

In the years following, the festival transformed into the internationally recognized Western Arctic tourist event it is now known to be.

Organizers project the festival will be back to "normal" in 2022.

Artists in the N.W.T. who are interested in attending can apply online through the festival's website.

Organizers say more details will be announced in the coming weeks.

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