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Iglulik seeks to enrich artists

The Hamlet of Igloolik is trying to put more money in artists' pockets from the sales of their creations. A new program will result in the hamlet paying artists up front for their artwork and then selling their wares in the southern market.

Artists Clara Kayotak and Tarsis Pillakapsi with their child. Pillakapsi says he's interested in the Hamlet of Igloolik's initiatives to help him make more money from his carvings.
photo courtesy of Merlyn Recinos/Hamlet of Igloolik

Artists will also see the bulk of the profit from southern sales. For example, a carving priced locally at $40 means the artist will be paid $40 right away. When the carving is later sold in the south for $100, the artist will receive another $50. Ten per cent will be kept aside to cover losses from any artwork that breaks during transport or doesn't sell for any other reason, said economic development officer Merlyn Recinos.

Senior administrative officer Greg Morash said he's planning to transport as many carvings and pieces of jewelry as he can to Canadian Federation of Municipalities meetings in Halifax and Fredericton later this year, where he will target thousands of delegates as potential customers.

"I know we can do it. I know the interest is there," Morash said. "We'll be the middleman and give (the money) back to the artists... If it works, then all the conferences that our (employees) go down to, we should be able to make it happen."

Morash said he hopes other communities will follow the model if it proves successful.

The Hamlet of Igloolik is also in the process of creating a website to give local artists' work a higher profile online and hopefully boost sales.

"Our goal is to promote the artists. We're helping them sell," said Recinos, who added that the hamlet is also assisting artists in applying for funding and grants through the Kakivak Association and the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.

There will also be future workshops in the community for carvers on using respirators, using tools optimally and pricing carvings.

"It's an approach to really support them to make sure they're happy and taken care of," Recinos said, adding that Iglulik is still aiming to have an art gallery established in the community.

Tarsis Pillakapsi, who has been a carver for more than 30 years, welcomes the initiatives.

"It would help me and help my family," Pillakapsi said, adding that he has to do other work because he has children to feed and his art sales don't net him enough income to sustain his family.

"It's hard sometimes trying to sell carvings here. There's not very much tourists here," he said.

Recinos estimated that close to one-third of Iglulik residents are involved in arts industries, either part-time or full-time.

About the Author: Derek Neary

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