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Great Northern Arts Festival returns
Festival features artists, entertainment and many more workshops

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, July 9, 2011

INUVIK - The Great Northern Arts Festival returns to Inuvik next week, promising 10 days of workshops, entertainment and art viewings.

NNSL photo/graphic

Executive director Sasha Webb, left, is getting help, including from Tommy Smith, Curtis Taylor and Tony Devlin, on the final preparations for the 2011 edition of the Great Northern Arts Festival, set to open at the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex on July 15. - Samantha Stokell/NNSL Photo

The Midnight Sun Recreation Complex will be open from July 15 to 24, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the art gallery in the curling rink and workshops in the hockey rink, and entertainment in the community hall starting at 8:30 p.m. nightly. Outside the complex will be a carving village, where carvers can chip away on their works without worrying about where the rocks will fly.

"I'm especially excited for the workshop schedule," said Sasha Webb, executive director for the festival. "We want the artists to teach and take part in the workshops not all artists have taught workshops, and we figure this will give them an opportunity to expand their skill set."

The festival has increased the number of workshops from 35 last year to more than 65 this year, with such classes as beading for slippers and soapstone carving. There are still some spaces available.

The theme for this year's festival is jewellery. Society members chose to highlight jewellery because it covers so many different forms of art.

"It could be a mask or a skirt or something more Western, such as diamonds or pearls," Webb said. "We felt this would be an amazing showcase for the the three territories: Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon."

Webb is especially excited about three jewellers from Iqaluit: Dan Wade, Dean Ittuksarjuat and Claude Roussel. They're learning the craft from Mathew Nuqingaq at Arctic College, who creates Northern-themed jewellery with materials such as silver and gold.

"They work in themes, such as Inukshuk rings or seal pendants," Webb said. "They're very talented jewellers and keep it Northern-themed with stone or bone."

Having artists travel across the wide expanse of the North is part of the mandate for the Great Northern Arts Festival Society. Its goal is to facilitate and offer opportunities for Northern artists similar to those available to artists living in the south.

Artists can show their work in a professional gallery as well as meet and network with other artists.

"People come from thousands of miles away, and because the festival is 10 days long they have a chance to relax and enjoy each other," Webb said. "They hang out and learn and engage with the public."

Webb took on the executive director position in January after working at a yoga studio in Vancouver and studying textiles and art. The job offered a perfect opportunity to blend her skills in event planning and art.

"I never wanted a job so badly in my life," Webb said. "I always wanted to live in the North and it was an ideal opportunity."

Each night of the festival will feature free entertainment, except for the headline show on Saturday night, which will cost $5. Entrance to the gallery is also $5. Performing artists will include Leanne Goose, Dennis Allen, a night of culture with drummers and a night of hip hop with Vancouver artists Mosha and Iqaluit-based Geothermal MC. There will also be an old time dance and an Arctic fashion show.

Opening ceremonies for the festival start at 8:30 p.m. on July 15, and volunteers are still needed. For schedules and workshops, visit www.gnaf.org.

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