'Bridge communities and break stereotypes': Art project begins northern tour in Inuvik

Art Express'd, an art project created by the Winnipeg Art Gallery to mark Canada 150, is in Inuvik this week on a mission to unite people and communities through art.

After Inuvik, Art Express'd will travel to Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet

Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald, left, with Grade 6 students who participated in the first day of the Art Express'd Northern tour. Jessie Buchanan, the project leader, is second from right. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Art Express'd, an art project created by the Winnipeg Art Gallery to mark Canada 150, is in Inuvik this week on a mission to unite people and communities through art.

From Winnipeg, three artists are travelling to 16 communities across Canada with six-metre shipping containers converted into mobile art studios. One is heading east, the other west, and Ontario artist Jessie Buchanan is on the northern route.

Buchanan started in Inuvik on Friday and says, as an Indigenous artist, she's thrilled to be in the North.

"For me it's like a dream come true, the fact that I was selected to be here," she said.

Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald, left, with artist Jessie Buchanan, who is leading the Art Express'd northern tour. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

"It'll help transform my vision, my scope of what it means to be Indigenous, but also my scope of Canada."

Buchanan will be in Inuvik for about two weeks, and hopes to attract people of all ages to participate in the art workshops.

"I think it's a very important project right now, especially given the time in history with Canada 150, and truth and reconciliation," Buchanan said.

"So I'm hoping it will bridge communities and it will help break stereotypes, and I'm really hoping to hear from individual people about their experiences of Canada."

Inuvik's Ava-Grace Dempster, 11, with her Art Express'd piece. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

'Art is fun'

Young people who participate will be able to put together mini cardboard containers that replicate the big shipping container.

​Ava-Grace Dempster, 11, was one of the first to register for the workshops.

"I like art. Art is fun," she said.

"You can understand how someone feels by how they paint."

Buchanan is also doing workshops with a nearly two-metre canvas. Participants of all ages and skill level will create art by answering her questions: "How do you identify as being a Canadian?" and "Do you feel connected to your land or environment?"

Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald came on the day the project launched outside the Midnight Sun Complex.

"Art is a big part of our community and the cultures in our region. I think it would give local artists and the community a chance for national exposure," McDonald said.

Grade 6 students in Inuvik work on their Art Express'd projects. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Buchanan and Art Express'd will be in Inuvik until June 21, when an exhibit will showcase all the creations made during the project.

The artwork will then be installed in the shipping container and shown in other northern communities, including Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet, before it's brought back to Winnipeg.

For more information on the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Art Express'd project, visit their website.