Ottawa gallery to dedicate studio to late Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook

Jean-Marc Leger May 17, 2017 0
Ottawa gallery to dedicate studio to late Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook

SAW Gallery plans to launch its Nordic lab when the gallery reopens in July 2018

The SAW Gallery in Ottawa is starting an artist exchange program with Nunavut in a space that will include an artist studio named for Annie Pootoogook.

The gallery is expanding to approximately 15,000 square feet with 1,000 square feet to be dedicated to a new Nordic Lab.

The Annie Pootoogook artist studio will take up the majority of the lab space and play host to Inuit artists as well as artists from Nordic countries.

SAW Gallery courtyard

A mock-up of the courtyard in the renovated SAW gallery. (Jason St-Laurent/SAW Gallery)

Annie Pootoogook was an Inuk artist from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, who won the Sobey Art Award and whose chalk-and-ink drawings are part of the National Gallery of Canada’s collection.

She passed away last year.

“Upon her passing we were all in agreement that we should do something to memorialize someone who made such a big difference in all of our lives,” said gallery curator Jason St-Laurent.

He said Pootoogook was someone gallery staff got to know personally, as well as professionally.

“It just seemed like a ‘no-brainer’. If we were to name anything in our new facility, it would be named after Annie.”

Functional and educational space

The Pootoogook space will serve as a functional studio for emerging Inuit artists as well as an educational space where local Ottawa artists can learn from visiting talent.

The gallery hasn’t nailed down all the equipment that will be in the studio, but St-Laurent says there will definitely be facilities for printmaking.

He says the gallery wants to recognize the important Northern tradition.

St-Laurent also says he hopes the gallery will be able to pair the studio with programming for street-involved and homeless youth.

Saw Gallery curator Jason St-Laurent

Saw Gallery curator Jason St-Laurent, standing in front of one of Annie Pootoogook’s drawings. (CBC News)

“We feel that’s an important feature of our neighbourhood and we want to be the place that gives people a leg up and I think that’s something that Annie would be very keen on.”

Promoting Inuit art abroad

“Over the years SAW gallery has been a strong supporter of Inuit artists in general. We’ve had many exchanges and exhibitions featuring Inuit artists over the years,” St-Laurent said.

The gallery is also looking to strengthen connections with other Northern countries and is in talks with embassies in some Scandinavian countries about possible programming.

St-Laurent would like to see artists from Nunavut visit the Nordic lab at SAW, then maybe move on to a residency in Finland or curate an exhibition in Norway, and he would like to see Nordic artists do the same in reverse, ending with a residency in Nunavut.

“We’re really trying to not only connect Nunavut to Ottawa, which is very important because we have such a dynamic Inuit community here, but to start promoting the work of Inuit artists abroad.”

The gallery’s main partner in orchestrating this is Nunavut’s Arts and Crafts Association in Iqaluit.

SAW gallery, which is currently more than 3,000 square feet and housed in a historic building in downtown Ottawa, will close in July for a year of renovations and reopen July 2018.


Article written by Sara Frizzell on the CBC News Website. Follow the link here.

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