The final result of a public art project that displays Inuvik’s diverse set of traditions and cultures across five satellite receivers was revealed to community members during National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations on June 21.
Local artists Ronnie Simon, Sheree McLeod, Ron English, Anick Jenks and students from East Three Secondary School’s art club contributed their talents to Natural Resource Canada’s “Antennas as Canvas” art project, which is exhibited at their Inuvik Satellite Station Facility.
“It’s pretty surreal. The installation is just so huge. What started as a 2 ft by 2 ft canvas has now grown. I think it’s around 52 ft across,” said Anick Jenks, whose “Community of Inuvik” art piece is featured on one of the site’s satellite dishes.
Jenks’ simple yet bold and vibrant design features the Midnight Sun nestled high above a set of colourful Smartie houses, while the artwork created by students from East Three’s art club is made up of images of wildlife and cultural symbols that are prevalent across the NWT.
Simon’s artwork captures a hunting and trapping scene to represent the Gwich’in, while McLeod’s design is of a blanket toss for the Inuvialuit. English’s piece depicts various elements of the Métis culture: dog sleds in the winter, canoes in the summer, music and dance, the Métis sash and an infinity symbol.
“It’s a great collaboration just to represent all of Inuvik and things that are important to us,” said Jenks. “To highlight the land, the people, what we’re all about.”
Corinna Vester, the manager of stakeholder relations with Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, said that the idea for the project was drawn up two years ago after viewing Indigenous artwork that was installed onto a satellite dish in Australia.
“It was Canada 150 and we thought that we would do something for that,” said Vester. “The thing about Canada 150, it was really clear that Indigenous people who have had a terrible history in our country were not being well represented by Canada 150 and we didn’t want to come up here and slap a Canada 150 logo on the dish.”
The federal department then partnered up with the Gwich’in Tribal Council, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Town of Inuvik, the Great Northern Arts Festival and East Three Secondary School to help select the artists.
“We worked with the artists to get a piece of artwork,” she said. “Most of them did it on a painting on a canvas, and then we had it scanned at very high resolution, transferred to a very thin film so that it won’t interfere with the signals that we’re getting with the satellites.”
As the site continues to develop, she added that she hopes to implement similar artwork projects onto future satellite dishes.
“There’s a lot of local people who have contributed to the work of this site. We really want the people in Inuvik to feel ownership and a part of this,” she said. “To reflect their cultures and to broadcast these cultures to the world.”