The federal government has announced $15-million in funding for the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Inuit Art Centre, a new four-level, 40,000-square-foot centre adjoining the gallery's current facility.
The centre – which will be "bringing the wonders of the North down south," Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly said – will house the world's largest collection of such art, with more than 13,000 carvings, drawings, prints, textiles and new-media artwork.
Initial plans for the Inuit Art Centre were announced in 2015, along with a $15-million donation from the province of Manitoba and $30-million in funding collected in private donations.
"It's a fabulous cash injection and critical to the building project," Stephen Borys, director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, said Tuesday about the announcement of the federal funding. "But as important, it makes it clear it's a national endorsement for this project which is also very much a national project, the first Inuit arts centre in the country and the first major indigenous arts centre in the country."
The additional $15-million, which is being provided through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, will go toward the construction of exhibition spaces, art storage, a conservation facility, art studios, a two-level interactive presentation theatre and classrooms. They will also build a glass-enclosed, street-level art vault to display the gallery's Inuit carving collection.
"Inuit art represents one of the longest traditions and also spans an incredible geography and territory, if you think of Nunavut and the areas in the Canadian Arctic," Dr. Borys said. "They're a small population and yet their art, whether it be carving, print, drawings or textiles, has penetrated communities and circles around the world."