Ottawa park dedicated to late Inuk artist
Annie Pootoogook Park sits beside Sandy Hill Community Centre, near U of O
Members of Ottawa's Inuit community and supporters gathered on International Inuit Day to dedicate a downtown park after internationally renowned Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook.
Originally from Nunavut, Pootoogook had been living in Ottawa before her death in September 2016 at the age of 47.
Stéphanie Plante would often see Pootoogook around the Sandy Hill neighbourhood and loved her artwork. After her death, Plante — also a member of the local Sandy Hill community association — started a campaign last February to have the park named after the award-winning artist.
"Annie and I both went through troubles at the same time, and I think those stories need to be told," Plante said. "It's not just the Terry Fox's and the Walter Bakers who get to have their names on a plaque."
The community and protective services committee approved the name Annie Pootoogook Park on Feb. 18.
Plante says Pootoogook's art was special, in that it captured the everyday life of people both within the Inuit community and out. One of her better-known works is called Dr. Phil, which depicts a young woman watching the U.S. talkshow on television.
"Her art is just so different, and so contemporary and it's so nice that we have a public space that's dedicated to a contemporary Inuit artist," Plante said.
Pootoogook's body was found in the Rideau River, and although her death was initially considered suspicious, Ottawa police later deemed it to be non-criminal.
Plante wants Pootoogook to be remembered as a "bright light."
"She deserves this park. She deserved so much more," she said.
Several members of Pootoogook's family, including her nine-year-old daughter, Inuit elders and Canada's first Inuk Governor General, Mary May Simon, were also at the park for the dedication.
The ceremony included traditional Inuit songs and dances, along with a throat-singing performance. Members of Ottawa's art community gave speeches, as well as those who were close to Pootoogook.
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury worked with Plante to help push the dedication campaign forward at city hall. He compared the ceremony's atmosphere to a wedding, in that it was a special moment for the city and the Inuit community.
"On November 7th, World Inuit Day, having your excellencies here, all of the performers and speakers. To me, it was very special," he told the crowd.
Fleury said he didn't know Pootoogook personally, but discovered her through Plante who he praised for her efforts to make the park name a reality.