Artists & Communities / Communities
Over 1,200 people reside in the Inuit community of Cape Dorset. It is located on the south west coast of Baffin Island on the Foxe Peninsula.
Cape Dorset, which calls itself the "Capital of Inuit Art", has been a centre for drawing, printmaking and carving since the 1950s and is hailed as the most artistic community in Canada. Printmaking and carving are the community's main economic activities. As the first community to produce drawings and prints in the Canadian Arctic, Cape Dorset has essentially set the standard for graphic art by Inuit artists.
James and Alma Houston initiated early forays into art making in the area during the late 1950s, while many artists were still living in ancestral camps. The early experimental prints were exhibited in 1958, and annual print collections and catalogues have been produced ever since.
Sculpture and graphite works on paper were the focus at that time. Stonecut stencil prints, and etching and engraving dominated the early collections. Lithography was introduced, along with the use of acrylic paint on paper, in the early 1970s. Certainly, one of the most successful and longest running print shops in Canada, Cape Dorset artists have produced over 100,000 drawings and more than 2,500 limited edition prints over the years.
Subsequently, a type of creative renaissance began in both print and drawing media in Cape Dorset. Well-established artists such as Pudlo Pudlat, Lucy Qinnuauyuak and many others, entered a very prolific period in their artistic careers. Kenojuak Ashevak's drawings of owls have appeared on Canadian stamps, as well as on a Canadian quarter.
Sculpture continues to have great importance among three generations of artists from this community. Although small-scale works, following the tradition of highly detailed ivory sculpture, are in evidence today, Cape Dorset artists are noted for their large-scale stone sculptures. Inspired by representation, the concept of transformation between shaman and spirit helper or spirit animal; arctic animals adopting naturalistic or humorous human-like poses (e.g. dancing bears, and Sedna - the sea goddess), are popular themes, in addition to a myriad of other subjects and styles, personal to each individual artist.