Ottawa's Inuit Art Foundation closing its doors

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said it was not informed until Thursday that the foundation was dismantling operations at the end of March.

Artist-run centre that markets Inuit work cannot pay its bills

The Ottawa-based Inuit Art Foundation plans to close its doors at the end of the month, saying it can't bring in enough money to sustain its rising costs.

The charitable foundation formed in 1985 to promote and market Inuit art worldwide is run by a volunteer board of artists.

It is selling off its art and emptying its offices at the end of the month. Inuit paintings and sculptures in the Inuit Art Foundation shop have red slashes across the price tags, and in their office, the walls are being stripped of artwork.

Art sales will go towards the programs, which will "take months to wind down", then the rest will be given to the artists and other charitable organizations.

"It is sad dismantling something you've built up," said executive director Marybelle Mitchell. "And it was a unique organization there's no doubt about that."

The foundation was most known in Ottawa for its Inuit art shop on Merivale Road, but it also ran a number of programs to help Inuit artists develop their craft and their careers. All its programs are to shut down and the group is being dismantled.

Ministry provided $458K annually to foundation

The foundation has received contributions from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development since 1985, with annual contributions of $458,000 since 2005.

The ministry said while funding did not change in 2010-11 or 2011-12, the foundation's costs have risen.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development spokesperson Geneviève Guibert said the ministry was not consulted on the decision and said it didn't learn of the decision to dismantle the foundation until Thursday morning.

The ministry said in a statement that representatives will meet with the foundation board to discuss the closing.

Mitchell said the foundation brought in revenues from the shop, magazine sales and private donations, but it wasn't enough.

"Our revenues are just not growing as fast as our expenses," said Mitchell.

"For the last few years we feel we've been losing ground. We haven't been able to launch new projects, we haven't been able to hire new staff as we need," she said.