Inuit Prints & Sculptures
The Dennos Museum Center’s strongest collection is of Inuit Art from the Baffin Island area of Nunavut, Canada. This collection, comprising more than 1,000 prints, sculptures, drawings, tools, textiles, and animal specimens, spans the history of contemporary Inuit arts, from the late 1950s through today.
Worldwide awareness of Inuit Art originated with the assistance of James Houston, noted artist, author and designer for Stueben Glass, who collected small carvings made by Canada's aboriginal (Inuit) peoples in the late 1940s. He brought the sculptures to southern Canada where they were subsequently sold to support the economic needs of the Inuit people.
In 1953 James Houston solicited support from his friend, Eugene Power, who was born in Traverse City, to help import Inuit art into the United States. Power, who owned and operated University Microfilms in Ann Arbor, established a non-profit gallery in Ann Arbor called Eskimo Art Incorporated to import the work. He encouraged the Cranbrook Institute of Science to host the first exhibition of Inuit Art in the United States in 1953.
Later, Houston taught the Inuit to make unique stone cut and seal skin stencil prints, and in 1959 the first collection of Inuit prints was released at Cape Dorset.
In 1960 Wilbur Munnecke of Field Enterprises in Chicago, who was on the board of Eskimo Art Inc., gave Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City a small collection of sculptures and prints to sell. Bernie Rink, NMC’s library director, used proceeds from the sale to purchase some of the work. Thus began the collection of Inuit Art at Northwestern Michigan College. In 1991, the opening of the Dennos Museum Center at NMC provided a permanent gallery for the collection and opportunities for programming.