As cruise ships make their way through the Northwest Passage, they often stop in Ulukhaktok, where a local art store helps provide revenue streams for the community.
Dealing in goods such as muskox qiviut headbands and toques, as well as intricate art carved from their horns, the Ulukhaktok Arts Centre has been in operation for decades, though only in its current form since 2010. Previously, it had been known as the Holman Print Shop.
“We buy from locals,” said Art Centre Craft Shop manager Donna Akhiatak. “We’re open all year, but most sales are in the summer. But I’ve found it’s slowed down now since fall.”
While the centre has a website and does the occasional online sale, high shipping costs can turn off online customers. Akhiatak said most of the Art Centre’s revenue comes from crusie ship tourists.
The centre not only provides a platform for artists in Ulukhaktok, but also artists from other small communities.
“We have other businesses helping us sell our products as well,” she added. “We all help each other.”
Since most of the materials used in creating these works come from wild game, the success of the centre leads back to the purchase of parts from hunters who brave the Arctic ice to harvest Muskox, seal and other creatures, though muskox are less abundant than they used to be.
“Some carvers are having a hard time getting a hold of a constant supply of muskox horns,” she said.
For now though, with Ulukhaktok’s population at 420 people as of 2017, the centre and its supply chain remain both one of the more unique gift shops in the Beaufort Delta and an important source of income for the community.