North

Arts group hopes new downtown space will raise profiles of Inuvik artists

The Great Northern Arts Society office has only been open for about two weeks and it's already had an open house, a knitting workshop and a mini christmas craft market for last-minute shoppers.

New Great Northern Arts Society space to offer a year-round venue for arts activities

'It's a wonderful space in that it provides the Great Northern Arts Festival an opportunity to have a sort of year-round interaction with the community,' says Tony Devlin, acting chair for the Great Northern Arts Festival. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The Great Northern Arts Society now has a permanent venue for creative activity in downtown Inuvik.

The new space opened about two weeks ago and it's already had an open house, a knitting workshop and a mini Christmas craft market for last-minute shoppers. It's also the society's new permanent office.

"It's a wonderful space in that it provides the Great Northern Arts Festival an opportunity to have a sort of year-round interaction with the community," said Tony Devlin, acting chair of the arts festival.

The impetus to establish an arts space downtown came out of a planning session on the arts festival's future. People wanted to see festival activities in the community year-round. 

"Basically, once the festival ended each summer, we disappeared. People didn't know about us. We weren't visible in the community," said Devlin. "The big thing that came out from everyone was to raise the local profile of the arts festival."

The impetus to establish an arts space downtown came out of a planning session on the arts festival’s future. People wanted to see festival activities in the community year-round. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

The discussion led the Great Northern Arts Society's board of directors to the former Arctic Image Festival space on Mackenzie Road, in the middle of downtown.

"What ended up happening was we absorbed the Arctic Image Festival," said Devlin.

Brightens up downtown

The space was donated to the society by real estate company Northview Apartment REIT and the Gwich'in Development Corporation.

Devlin said the space can be a venue for workshops, or for visiting artists to sell their work.

He said another bonus is that it brightens up the downtown, where many commercial storefronts are vacant.

Tony Devlin said the space can be a venue for workshops, or for visiting artists to sell their work. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

"Personally, I've argued for years that this downtown core needed some type of revitalization," Devlin said. The space, he added, is "a big bright thing when you're driving down the street now, as opposed to just an empty glass storefront. 

"I think it's going to do tremendous things for our community going forward."

New year, new exhibits

There are a couple of exhibits planned for the space in the new year.

One of those will be of Harold Harshaw's art collection, which includes Inuit art from the 1940s and 50s. It was donated to the festival by his family.

The arts society shares the space with other businesses, including a photography studio that's open to amateur photographers.

Now that the arts society board has taken over the Arctic Image Festival, said Devlin, it plans to devote three days of this summer's 32nd Great Northern Arts Festival to photography.

Devlin's excited about what the arts space downtown will mean for Inuvik artists.

It's truly an "all artist space," he said. "It provides our artist this opportunity, this venue, this ability where they can workshop, where they can train, where they can exhibit, as well."

now