From the land to the market As well as participating in seminars and activities in Ottawa, the Russian interns spent three days in Toronto where they were given special presentations from some wholesalers and dealers. They learned about the cooperative structure in the Canadian North from R.J. Ramrattan, buyer for Arctic Cooperatives Limited. They also received wholesale marketing advice from Nunavut Development Corporation’s Tom Chapman, manager of sales and marketing. “I think I communicated to the group that one of the successes of our corporation is the support of the Government of Nunavut,” Chapman said:
Because of the geographic challenges — and certainly with what it is that they are trying to accomplish — it’s very important that a governing body ... recognizes the challenges and lends them support financially and otherwise to get things rolling. It’s next to impossible for an artist to take something from the land and successfully get it placed and marketed and represented and promoted and understood, from A to Z, on his own accord. There has to be a formal structure in place that assists all the way along.
In addition to touring the Art Gallery of Ontario, where the group viewed a modest exhibition of prints by Kenojuak Ashevak and the permanent exhibition of Henry Moore sculpture, they also visited two commercial art dealers in Toronto: Feheley Fine Arts, a privately owned family business specializing in Inuit fine art, and the Guild Shop, a non-profit retail gallery owned and controlled by the Ontario Craft Council. “We are showcasing and helping the artists,” said Ann Tompkins, the Guild Shop’s Inuit and Native Gallery Director.
That’s why we exist, to display their work and help them. Not just Inuit artists, but others who are able to produce good things. [They] can’t personally market their work across the country themselves. They need assistance. And we can reach people internationally in so many ways.
In Ottawa, the interns had more than a few opportunities to see how Inuit art is exhibited, including in some of Canada’s most distinguished venues: the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery of Canada. Both of these institutions help to reinforce the distinction between Inuit art and the craftwork and souvenirs also produced in arctic communities. Since the National Gallery is the gatekeeper of Canadian art — the ultimate arbiter of quality — the fact that it collects Inuit art speaks volumes about the eminence the artform has achieved in Canada. At DIAND offices, the interns were given tours of the Indian and Inuit Art Centres and multi-media presentations outlining the centres’ programs and activities. These presentations helped to underscore the special nature of the DIAND-run facilities, which allow the Canadian government to continue its historical role of promoting Inuit art. There, interns also met with Inuit art curator Heather Campbell, a graduate of the Inuit Art Foundation’s Cultural Industries Training Program. “I was pleased that the Inuit Art Centre was able to host the interns from Siberia,” Campbell said:
I had learned so much during my trip to Eastern Siberia in 2002 that I was eager to share our knowledge, experiences, and culture with them during their trip to Canada. Handson experience is crucial to a better understanding of the Inuit art marketing system. How the interns will use this information to further develop the marketing of indigenous art in Siberia will be an inspiration to us all.
At Arts Alive 5, the Russian interns received hands-on assistance in the displaying, pricing and presentation of artwork. By all indicators, the workshop was a huge success. Feedback culled from the intern’s evaluation of the program was full of experience that was gained. “As a young artist just starting out I have learned a lot,” said intern Ilya Raishev, a decorative fine arts student from Khanty-Mansiysk. “It is very important to exchange experience because we can learn so much from each other. Some problems are similar, some of them have already been solved in Canada [that] we are just facing now.”