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Jewelry students left hanging

Western Arctic loses both jewelry programs

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Inuvik (May 18/01) - A heavy air of sadness and disappointment hung in the air at the college jewelry studio last Thursday despite the final exam being completed an hour earlier and the ensuing graduation ceremonies.

The seven budding artists in the jewelry and metalwork program are dealing with the fact that funding for their program has been eliminated. The Inuvik campus will not offer a jewelry program next school year and, in fact, the entire Western Arctic will be devoid of any such art program.

Don Gruben is a second-year student who received his jewelry and metalwork diploma last week, but he is upset because he can't take the third year of the program and that three first-year students are being left high and dry.

"I feel if they start a program they should at least fund it until all of the students already enrolled are finished," said Gruben while cleaning up his workbench in the college's jewelry studio.

"Even if they didn't accept any more students, but let the ones already started finish. There are a lot of artists in the region who are interested in taking the program. It's a way of keeping the culture alive."

Byron Archer is a first-year student who received a certificate last week.

He was given the option of travelling to Nunavut to start his second-year.

"I have a family that doesn't want to move to Nunavut. We live here, we've always lived here," said Archer. "They (the college) never said 'why' they've cut the program, they just said we can't have it because of lack of funding."

Ruth Wright, who has been studying different arts programs at the college off and on since 1985, says she's disappointed and feels that resource development is snuffing out the arts.

"Everyone is jumping on the oil bandwagon. Sure it's good, but it only lasts for a few years. Arts is a long-term industry," said the second-year graduate.

Instructor Gail Hodder says she was caught off guard when the announcement came in March that the program wouldn't be continued.

"I'm disappointed and I think it's sad that we have been developing this program for two years and now it's being cut," said Hodder, whose partner, Darrin, is the other instructor.

"It's so painful to see the looks on the students' faces knowing that it's all over."

In addition, the Rae-Edzo jewelry and metalwork program is also ending, meaning that the Western Arctic will not have a program next school year.

"The really sad thing is that there will not be any Western Arctic jewellers.

"The jewelry program offers a different art form for students to try, instead of stone or print."

For the past two years the program has been funded by the Inuvialuit and Gwich'in instead of relying on base funding from the college. Now, however, the two aboriginal groups have stopped the funding and the college does not have money to allocate to the program.

None of the three groups were available for comment by press time.