Wrapping up the Inaugural Year

Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Michael Maltzan Architecture with associate Cibinel Architecture. Photo Lindsay Reid

This spring marks the end of the inaugural year of Qaumajuq, and we are just getting started! Looking back on the last year, it is amazing what our community has been able to accomplish.

While the year delivered challenges as the pandemic surged on, we were also able to find ways to come together and to celebrate. Our community at WAG-Qaumajuq—staff, board, and volunteers—have adapted repeatedly to the shifting sands and we continue to work every day to ensure that the Gallery is here for everyone for inspiration. We could not have done it without the support of our members and donors who continue to champion WAG-Qaumajuq initiatives. We look forward to what we will accomplish together as the Gallery continues to grow.

One year ago, Qaumajuq opened virtually to Canadians and the world. In the lead-up to the event, the WAG kicked off #Qaumajuq365, the inaugural year celebrations, with a light show inspired by the North projected on the exterior buildings, a display curated by Jocelyn Piirainen, WAG-Qaumajuq Associate Curator of Inuit Art. This series did so much to brighten the neighborhood and bring art to passerby. For this reason, we decided to make the display a permanent fixture of the Gallery, with unlimited possibilities to bringing art onto our city streets.

The opening of Qaumajuq, and the subsequent exhibition and programming, continues to receive amazing feedback from local, national, and international audiences. The Winnipeg Free Press says that “a new bright light shines in Winnipeg.” Forbes describes us as, “an extraordinary new museum” with “one-of-a-kind, space-sharing design.” AZURE calls Qaumajuq “foundational in supporting and elevating the ever-evolving work and ingenuity of contemporary Inuit artists.” EnRoute shared that: “The significance of Qaumajuq cannot be overstated… Up to this point, the WAG’s Inuit collection has been mostly acquired and curated by settlers… But with Qaumajuq this is changing, and with this change will come others, including an increased awareness across the country that collections should be curated by people who share a cultural heritage with the art.” And to my delight, Qaumajuq was pictured on the cover of TIME, helping to make Winnipeg one of the World’s Greatest Places to visit.

The year ahead shows so much promise. Taking over Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah, the WAG building, Kwaata-nihtaawakihk – A Hard Birth commemorates the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Province of Manitoba from a Métis perspective. Guest curators Sherry Farrell Racette, Associate Professor, Department of Visual Arts, University of Regina and Cathy Mattes, curator, writer, and Associate Professor in History of Art at the University of Winnipeg, have paired artwork with archival materials to prompt us to reflect on the Métis nation’s role in Manitoba’s creation and to consider the significance of the events of 1869-70 in relation to our current times.

In June the Gallery will share the stunning work of Esmaa Mohamoud with To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat. The next year’s slate of exhibitions and programming will further expand the diversity of perspectives that are shared at WAG-Qaumajuq. The art on display will spark creativity and inspire dialogue around issues that affect us all.

This place is yours and we hope you will join us here. The first floor is always free to come and hang out. Stop by for coffee or lunch at Katita Café, now managed by WOW! Hospitality. You can also shop in our celebrated Gallery Shop, and of course, take in the incredible art on display.

We have so much to celebrate here at WAG-Qaumajuq, and I hope you join us for another incredible year!

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2 responses to “Wrapping up the Inaugural Year”

  1. Cindy K. says:

    Congratulations on the one year anniversary.

    I hope the membership for older adults (used to be $75 for a couple, $60 if renewed early) will be brought back. It can be challenging for people on a fixed income. I will need to think about this when my membership comes up for renewal in the fall.

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