Cultural workers from Siberia come to Canada to learn about Inuit art This article appeared originally in Volume 20, No. 3, Fall 2005 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly and was reprinted with the permission of the Quarterly.
Ten cultural workers from the indigenous regions of the Russian North spent two weeks in Canada this past April to learn first-hand how Canadian Inuit art is marketed and promoted. The objective of the workshop — From Producers to Consumers — was to provide an overview of the process by which Canadian Inuit art gets from the hands of producers in arctic villages into the hands of consumers around the globe. It was an unprecedented opportunity to see in person how artwork is promoted, priced and distributed through the marketing system unique to Canadian Inuit art, and the envy of indigenous producers everywhere in the world. “We know that the situation
Discussion and analysis of the marketing system was reinforced with on-site presentations at wholesalers and retailers in Toronto and guided tours of public art galleries in Toronto and Ottawa. Although funds prevented the Russian interns from visiting an arctic village, the Arctic came to them in the form of the eight directors of the Inuit Art Foundation who arranged their annual spring board meeting to coincide with the last week of the workshop. They were joined by 12 other artists at Arts Alive 05, a weekend arts festival and cultural exchange that brought the event to a climactic close. This opportunity to interact formally and informally with the interns was an important component of the workshop; for, as well as maximizing the exchange of ideas, it will inevitably result in helping to overcome the isolation of northern artists through the establishing of new connections.
Spearheaded by the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF), the workshop marked the end of a broader initiative backed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC-Canada), the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), which sought to establish a foundation for the sustainable political, economic and cultural development of Russia’s many indigenous peoples. From Producers to Consumers, was a follow-up to Connecting Cultures, a 2002 workshop in Tyumen, Siberia delivered by IAF President Mattiusi Iyaituk and IAF staff, as well as staff of the Indian and Inuit Art Centres (DIAND).