Celebrating the Opening of Qaumajuq

Hoop dancer Marika Sila during the virtual opening of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre.

At the end of March 2021, Qaumajuq (the Inuit art centre) opened virtually to Manitobans and audiences around the globe.

While we couldn’t gather in person due to the pandemic, amazing supporters like you made it possible to share in the excitement from anywhere, and to open Qaumajuq’s doors for its first visitors. Together we have unveiled a new cultural and architectural landmark in the heart of the Canada. Relive this unforgettable moment in time and the weeks leading up to it!

On January 1, 2021, the WAG kicked off Qaumajuq365, the inaugural year celebrations, with a light show on the two connected WAG-Qaumajuq buildings, evoking the Northern Lights. Come February, the lights got brighter with projections of contemporary Inuit art, film, and imagery on Friday and Saturday nights.

The WAG hosted a virtual media on March 11 promoting Qaumajuq and the virtual opening, which was attended by over 200 media outlets from around the world! We have seen unparalleled WAG media coverage internationally (e.g. the New York Times, Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine), nationally (e.g. The Globe & Mail, CBC; CTV, Global, APTN, Canadian Architecture, and Nunatsiaq News), and locally, including a nine-page spread in the Winnipeg Free Press.

The virtual opening of Qaumajuq premiered over two nights, Thursday, March 25 (Part I) and Friday, March 26 (Part II), 2021, transporting you to the light-filled spaces of Qaumajuq with artwork, performances, voices, and ceremonies bridging North and South. Presented by BMO Financial Group and hosted by WAG’s Dr. Stephen Borys and Julia Lafreniere with Nunavut’s Madeleine Allakariallak, this two-part documentary lets you feel the light and hope of Qaumajuq no matter where you are.

Part I takes you on a journey through the new 40,000-square-foot building by Michael Maltzan Architecture with Cibinel Architecture; the world-renowned collection of Inuit art it holds; the education, outreach and meeting place it provides; and the inspiration for its design and function. Performers from Inuit Nunangat, including Inuit performance collective ArtCirq and hoop dancer Marika Sila, come together with Manitoba artists like viral TikTok jiggers and hip-hop dancers the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers, singer-songwriter Don Amero, and throatsingers Nikki Komaksiutiksak and Chasity Swan. Special appearances by CBC’s Rosanna Deerchild and Juanita Taylor, and many more!

A light of hope. A place where everyone could come to look for inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation. A bright future. So inspiring. — Tatjana

Part II shares the story of the spirits that exist within the art and the blessing of Qaumajuq in ceremony by the Seven Nations of Manitoba. We wanted to begin in a good way and welcome the artworks and building to this land, Treaty 1, Metis and Dakota territory, with a day of prayer. In doing this, Qaumajuq was prepared to open its doors and the spirit of the artworks made ready to welcome visitors. Hear a mix of celebratory messages with voices from across the country and beyond. You can share your greetings too! We would love to hear what the opening of Qaumajuq means to you. Share your story with us at [email protected] or on social media with #qaumajuq365 !

Thank you to the elders for sharing their knowledge with us all. It is a gift I promise to honor. — Lars

To date, the two-part virtual opening has been viewed over 52,000 times and counting on the WAG’s direct channels, with media broadcasting partners streaming widely locally and nationally. You can watch the production by Eagle Vision for free anytime at wag.ca/opening.

The opening week of Qaumajuq at the end of March 2021 featured free admission thanks to Canada Life and was fully booked at 25% capacity with close to 6,000 visitors. Watch for more inaugural year festivities, online and in person, at wag.ca/events. We can’t wait to see you here!

A community of artists, Indigenous advisors, partners, and stakeholders have collaborated to envision and build a vibrant gathering place where all are welcome and where everyone’s stories are told and heard in a true spirit of reconciliation. Thank you for being part of this incredible transformation.

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is located on Treaty No. 1 the original lands and waters of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
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