University of Michigan Museum of Art Gains Spectacular Inuit Art Collection

. April 30, 2018.

Ann Arbor civic leaders Philip and Kathy Power have created the Power Family Program for Inuit Art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Building on the Power family’s legacy of advancing awareness and appreciation of art created by the Inuit – indigenous people living in the Arctic – the generous gift is the largest to UMMA during the Victors for Michigan campaign and includes the family’s collection of more than 200 stone sculptures and prints. In addition to the artwork, valued at more than $2.5 million, the Powers have donated $2 million to endow the program and support staff training, outreach programs, research, and alliance building with Canadian and Inuit institutions.

“Over the years, our family built a collection of Inuit art that ranks among the best in the world,” Philip Power says. “Kathy and I decided to gift it to UMMA so as many people as possible could experience it and understand how Inuit people understand and cope with their harsh Arctic environment, now under dire threat from climate change.”

Origins of the collection

The collection, primarily mid-20th century pieces, showcases an important time in the development of Inuit art created by people living on Baffin Island in Northeastern Canada as they explored innovative techniques in stone-cutting and seal-skin printmaking. In 1953, Eugene Power, encouraged by his friend James Houston, an artist and educator with deep ties to the Inuit, founded the nonprofit gallery Eskimo Art Inc. with his son, Philip. After Eugene Power’s death in 1993, control of the organization was transferred to the Inuit, but the family’s desire to raise awareness of Inuit art and culture continues.

A new platform

“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Phil and Kathy Power, UMMA will establish itself as a national center for Inuit art,” says UMMA Director Christina Olsen. “The Powers’ Inuit collection, one of the most important of its kind in the country, will serve as a platform for UMMA to develop a broad program of engaged learning around the artwork of the Canadian Arctic and related issues, such as climate change. We look forward to sharing this remarkable collection with the community and nation.”

UMMA will inaugurate the Power Family Program for
Inuit Art in the spring of 2019.

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