Project Description

Canadian Inuit cultures have an illustrious reputation for high-quality craftsmanship.

What was once a small scale trading industry among neighboring Arctic tribes became an artistic phenomena with the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century. High quality souvenir art, including hand-drawn art, carved animals, and dolls and toys were skillfully produced and traded with whalers, sailors and explorers.

As these regional art forms became more popular, a young artist, James A. Houston, encouraged the Inuit to use their art in an effort to solve their long-standing economic burdens. The rise of Inuit co-operatives, with the assistance of the federal government and local agencies, resulted in high-quality carvings, never seen before, such as those displayed here.

The rise in popularity of Inuit art encouraged new and lesser artists to flood the market. To ensure superior quality, the northern co-ops began exercising influence over artistic production, thus ensuring the highest standards of Inuit art for future generations.

Thanks to the Tesse Grosh family for sharing their collection. Tesse gained an appreciation for Inuit art while working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Later, while living in Toronto, she began a business buying art from co-ops and selling to private customers. Her children all have collections including her daughter Elaine, without whom this exhibit would not be possible.