A glimpse of Artcirq: circus of the Arctic
Nunavut’s world-renowned circus troupe with a social mission.
In the middle of a former Arctic trading hub, home to 1,600 people, is the home base of an internationally-renowned circus troupe. Artcirq was launched in Igloolik in 1998 as a youth suicide prevention project, and in the years since its launch it has become a world-class performing arts collective. They are committed to celebrating and showcasing Inuit culture, with a mission to "bridge traditional Inuit culture to modern artistic practices by creating meaningful and original work through the performing arts, music, and video."
"The idea was to simply offer activities for youth to have access to and to invest themselves; to find ways to express what they're living, what they're feeling, what they're going through," says Vanessa Kneale, Artcirq's general manager, who is also a clown and dancer.
More than 20 years later, Artcirq has evolved into a Inuit Performance Collective, whose members perform around the globe.
Jimmy Qamukaq was a teenager when he started training with Artcirq. Now an accomplished acrobat, Qamukaq continues to be impressed by the program's positive impact on his community. He says that young participants often tell him how the program has helped them turn their lives around.
"They overcome the challenges of their own and also to prove that they can be better," he says. "That touches me every time."
Jimmy was one of several members of Artcirq who were invited to perform at Italy's Venice Biennale in May 2019.
Artcirq was part of the documentary Circus Without Borders that highlighted community leaders who are using art to inspire change in their communities.