Indigenous peoples of the Arctic have been making art for thousands of years. In this exhibit, we will look at an ancient artifact fashioned by unknown hands, the work of the first generation of Inuit artists, and two contemporary Inuit artists whose work has become part of the international art world.
For most contemporary art critics, the term “decorative” is pejorative, implying that a work, while perhaps pretty, lacks content and depth. The decorative arts, it is commonly assumed, have two features that are at odds with what we think of as fine art: decorative art is typically associated with function – glasses, plates, bowls, jars, carpets, clothes – and its purpose is to project a style or mood rather than to transmit meaning and incite dialogue.
This Collection explores visual arts in Canada through articles, photo galleries, Heritage Minutes and more, and is presented in partnership with Charles Bronfman’s Claridge Collection. Above image: Untitled. Acrylic on canvas, painted by Max Johnson. Courtesy of the Charles Bronfman's Claridge Collection.
The totem pole (also known as a monumental pole) is a tall structure carved out of cedar wood, created by Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples to serve variously as a signboard, genealogical record and memorial. Some well-known carvers include Mungo Martin, Charles Edenshaw, Henry Hunt, Richard Hunt and Stanley Hunt.
Sod houses, or “soddies,” were a common style of dwelling built in the Prairies during the second half of the 19th century. Soddies were small structures cheaply built out of blocks of sod and rudimentary house fittings. Sod refers to grass and the soil beneath it that is held together by the grass’s roots. Although the term “sod house” is primarily associated with Canadian and American structures built during westward expansion, the structures found their architectural roots in Indigenous and Norse practices. Sod houses have come to symbolize the hardship of homestead life, despite shacks and log cabins being the primary form of housing.
Theatre Passe Muraille (meaning “theatre beyond walls”) was the first alternative theatre in Toronto. It focused on breaking down barriers and exploring new ideas and methods of storytelling. Despite financial crises over the years, it has maintained its alternative roots as a producer of provocative and groundbreaking Canadian theatre, as well as a launching pad for emerging companies and artists.
Acadian cinema (films by francophone filmmakers from Canada’s Maritime provinces) consists of about 300 documentaries and 50 fiction and animated films. The first films by Acadian filmmakers were shot in 1956. The National Film Board’s Studio Acadie opened in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1974. As of 2017, about 10 independent, French-language film production companies were operating in Moncton and Caraquet, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ookpik, which means “snowy owl” or “Arctic owl” in Inuktitut, is the name of one of the most popular of Inuit handicrafts, a souvenir sealskin owl with a large head and big eyes. In the 1960s, Ookpik became a popular national symbol after the federal government chose it to represent Canada at the 1963 trade fair in Philadelphia. Today, Ookpik is less popular among consumers, but it still holds significance for some Inuit artists and toy collectors.
Chateau Lake Louise is a world-renowned mountain resort and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Banff National Park, Alberta. Known as the “Diamond in the Wilderness,” the chateau was built beginning in the late 1800s, and was developed as part of the CPR’s network of hotels. It shares a lineage with the Banff Springs Hotel, Le Chateau Frontenac in Québec City and the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Considering its remote location and its eventual scale, the Chateau Lake Louise marked an important point in the development of the Canadian West.
At least until the 1830s, and even later in some regions, the architecture of the English regime was polarized between Georgian forms, symbolizing British imperial order, and the various regional tendencies, already established or in the process of formation throughout the territory.
More than 3,000 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the coast of British Columbia (and adjacent areas of Washington State and southeastern Alaska) such as the Haida and Kwakwaka'wakw developed artistic traditions that are heralded throughout the world for their imaginative and stylistic qualities.
From its earliest days, filmmaking has been a powerful form of cultural and artistic expression, and a highly profitable commercial enterprise. From a practical standpoint, filmmaking is a business involving large sums of money and a complex division of labour engaged, roughly speaking, in three sectors: production, distribution and exhibition.
Professional painting and sculpture are relatively new to Acadia, where the arts have traditionally evolved from church decorators - both those who were self-taught and those who were professionally trained. The first organized instruction in these disciplines came with the creation at the Université de Moncton of a Department of Visual Arts in the mid-1960s...
Louis Riel is an opera in three acts composed by Harry Somers, with an English and French libretto (opera text) by Mavor Moore and Jacques Languirand. It tells the story of the legendary Métis political and cultural figure, Louis Riel. Arguably Canada’s most famous opera, it was commissioned by the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation (now the Chalmers Fund) as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. It was initially produced by the Canadian Opera Company (COC) with financial assistance from the Canadian Centennial Commission, the Canada Council and the Province of Ontario Council for the Arts (now the Ontario Arts Council). The opera was reimagined in 2017 by Peter Hinton, who sought to better incorporate Indigenous people and perspectives into the production.