When Inuvik artists Sharlene Alexander and Sue Rose decided to organize an arts festival in 1989, they set their sights small – just a few dozen artists from the Beaufort-Delta region, but it was not to be. Artists throughout the Northwest Territories were desperately in need of a way of connecting to each other, and the first festival grew in size and scope until every region of the territories was represented. For the first time, artists from far-flung communities were able to meet, share techniques, get marketing tips and inspire each other. Excitement grew as Northern artists realized how much they had in common and could learn from each other!
As the reputation of the Festival grew, so did interest in the rest of the world. Soon visitors from Germany, France, Japan, the United States and southern Canada started making their way to the Festival, arriving either by plane, car, recreational vehicle, mountain bike, and occasionally by canoe. In the thirteen years since the first Great Northern Arts Festival, it has become the premier cultural event in the Northwest Territories. The Festival has remained true to its vision over the years. Its goal is to provide a venue for artists to share information and techniques, to grow within their medium and, if they wish, to experiment with new media. Artists can attend and offer workshops on a variety of techniques and seminars on the business aspects of art. The Festival has received generous funding and support in kind from many government departments, corporations and businesses, and from volunteers in the town of Inuvik.
The Festival Today
Each summer, the town of Inuvik, Northwest Territories host the Great Northern Arts Festival: a phenomenal 10-day gathering of artists and performers from across the arctic and beyond. The most comprehensive cultural event in northern Canada, The Great Northern Arts Festival unites over 80 artists and 40 entertainers to celebrate the diversity of Northern art and culture. They are Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, Dene, Inuit, Athapaskan, Metis and non-Aboriginal representing all facets of northern life and creativity. The Festival Gallery features over 1,500 pieces for display and sale; artists demonstrate their techniques on site daily. Visitors can mingle freely with artists, or craft their own original art in public workshops. Family Day, on the last Saturday, features workshops and events for children of all ages. Evenings under the midnight sun are filled with cultural presentations including music, dance, storytelling, concerts and the finest fashion show north of 60 °!
Check out their website more information: www.gnaf.org