Inuit art is a defining feature of CUAG’s collecting and exhibition programmes. In 1992, Dr. Marion Jackson, a scholar of Inuit art, facilitated the generous gift to CUAG of the Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks Collection of Inuit Art. The collectors, both Americans, travelled extensively throughout Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland in the 1970s and 1980s, meeting artists and buying their work. Their passion for Inuit narrative resulted in the 1995 co-publication by the gallery and Carleton University Press of Lela Kiana Oman’s The Epic of Qayaq: The Longest Story Ever Told By My People. Their art collection ultimately comprised approximately 1275 works in all media, with a strong concentration of prints by artists from Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake), Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Ulukhaktok (Holman), Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), and Puvirnituq. Exhibitions drawn from the Tyler/Brooks collection are frequently on display in the gallery.
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The Tyler/Brooks donation has attracted other significant gifts of Inuit art to the collection. Major donations include the R.D. Bell Collection of Inuit Art of 57 sculptures, with several large and impressive works, particularly by Cape Dorset artists, and the Josephine Mitchell and Lowell Schoenfeld Collection of Inuit Art, comprised of 55 sculptures. Most recently, John Andrew and Carolle Anne Armour donated 91 sculptures and 170 works on paper, including 32 drawings by the acclaimed Cape Dorset artist Parr and 15 drawings by Luke Anguhadluq, a senior Baker Lake artist. A medical doctor, Armour was especially interested in the activities of the shaman or angikoq – the doctor and healer of Inuit society – and as such, a number of the sculptural works in the collection address shamanic themes.
Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks intended their collection to foster greater understanding of and appreciation for Inuit art, a goal achieved through exhibitions, research, and publications. Indeed, CUAG's Inuit collection is a rich resource for such activity, in particular by students. Many of the exhibitions have been curated by undergraduate and graduate art history students, who gain invaluable curatorial experience working with the collection in a professional setting.
The gallery has published several exhibition catalogues featuring their research, including Qiviuq: A Legend in Inuit Art (1996) by Jennifer Gibson, Making Art Work in Cape Dorset (1997) by Shannon Bagg, and The Arctic Lithograph (1998) by Jennifer Cartwright. In late 2009 we launched our first collections catalogue, Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection, a full-colour, richly-illustrated, 232-page hardcover book documenting the highlight's of CUAG's important Inuit art collection and featuring the work of 34 guest writers. This book was awarded first prize in catalogue design by the American Association of Museums publication design competition (2009) and "special recognition" in the category of art publication of the year by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (2010).