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The North loses an artist

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 19/05) - Tuktoyaktuk-born artist Bill Nasogaluak left Yellowknife last month to continue his career in Toronto. But he didn't want to.

"I'm moving down there because the market is gone, up here," he said. "Nobody wants to buy big work. There are no serious art collectors any more. I need to make a living and I can't make it any more here."

NNSL Photo/graphic

Bill Nasogaluak completed this mural, titled Moonlit Stroll, shortly before leaving the NWT last month. The eight-by-nine foot painting fills one wall of the Lil' Bear's Den Gallery in Yellowknife. - Dorothy Westerman/NNSL photo

Nasogaluak will deal with the prestigious David Harris Gallery in Toronto and several other North American galleries. He is planning an Internet show with a gallery outside New York City in the new year.

"When there's a money crunch, the arts is the first thing to be dropped and when the finances are back to normal for everyone it's usually the last thing picked up," he said. "I've never seen the North at this level. Every where the market is so soft. It's weak. What I find very disappointing is that outside the art world there's really no awareness that it's difficult making a living (as an artist).

"It's getting harder every year. This particular year seems worse than ever."

Nasogaluak is disappointed in the lack of support extended to artists by the federal and territorial governments.

He advocates a program that would dedicate a small percentage of federal and provincial building projects to public art.

"This is where we could get our funding to have a strong arts community," he said.

For example, if 0.1 per cent of the $28 million budget for the new federal Greenstone building in the NWT capital went toward public art, that would put $28,000 into the arts community, he said.

"We need support for the arts and I think it starts from the top," he said. "Nations and people as a whole are judged by our arts and our architecture. It's bigger than all of us as individuals."

In recent years, Nasogaluak has travelled throughout Europe and the Americas.

Earlier this year he built a monumental Inukshuk sponsored by the Canadian embassy in Guatemala City.