Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 01, 2014 - 4:29 pm

Report: Nunavut arts community is talented, growing, but not business savvy

New report shows need for improved financial literacy

SARAH ROGERS
Iqaluit-based fur designer Victoria Kakuktinniq shows off some of her seal skin, embroidered headbands, on sale at her booth at this year’s Northern Lights business and cultural showcase in Ottawa. Following months of consultations, many Nunavummiut artists say they lack the financial literacy skills to manage their income and budget for projects. (FILE PHOTO)
Iqaluit-based fur designer Victoria Kakuktinniq shows off some of her seal skin, embroidered headbands, on sale at her booth at this year’s Northern Lights business and cultural showcase in Ottawa. Following months of consultations, many Nunavummiut artists say they lack the financial literacy skills to manage their income and budget for projects. (FILE PHOTO)

Thousands of Nunavummiut take part and earn a living in the territory’s arts sector, including visual arts and crafts, film and media and performing arts.

There is a growing arts community across Nunavut, but its stakeholders say they face a growing number of challenges when it come to business and administration.

A new report commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts agency shows Nunavut’s artists need improved financial literacy to manage the income they make from their work.

Between November 2013 and March 2014, consulting firm Nordicity Ltd. met with and surveyed 85 artists and stakeholders to understand how Nunavut’s industry was faring.

One of the questions artists were asked was to describe what kind of business activities they were working on.

Most said they were involved with the day to day activities, like pricing their work or promoting and selling it online — skills that are commonly taught in arts sector workshops.

But less than half of Nunavut’s artists said they had any kind of long-term business plan, like creating project budgets or investing money.

And among business activities, artists said they felt least comfortable dealing with any kind of legal transaction, like negotiating contracts or preventing their work from being used without permission.

That makes it harder and less likely for Nunavummiut artists to see their work outside of the territory, the report noted.

While community-based arts organizations provide a vital service to the territory and its artists, gaps in staffing often interfere with their ability to pursue business growth, as Nunavut’s most skilled administrators compete for more stable work in the civil service.

Over the last five years, 33 per cent of artists and 46 per cent staff from arts organizations reported having access to arts administration training.

Here’s what else arts groups reported, sector by sector:

• Nunavut’s visual arts and crafts organizations identified as the most in need of financial planning, as well as promotion and marketing.

Although social media sites like Facebook have boosted artists’ sales within the territory, sales of Nunavut’s fine art outside the territory continue to decline.

Visual artists in Nunavut can at least benefit from the territory’s only post-secondary arts training, through programs in fur design and jewellery and metalwork offered at Nunavut Arctic College.

• The film and television industry in Nunavut has proven an important economic engine for the territory, generating almost $9 million in GDP in Nunavut’s economy between 2005 and 2009, and growing a reputation outside of the territory as a promoter of Inuit culture.

Nunavut’s film, television and digital media industry identified formal training on its wish list — a Nunavut Film Development Corp. consultation earlier this year called for a new media program to be offered at the college.

But the industry lost an important voice when the Ajjiit Media Association closed down after losing its core funding.

• While there’s a rich history of performance art in Nunavut, business skills and training are underdeveloped, performing artists said.

“There is no music association, and no record labels, publicists, or professional managers,” the report said. “Artists are typically self-managed and desire greater mentorship and apprenticeship opportunities with established performers.”

• Nunavut’s smallest arts sector, writing and publishing, said it wants its own industry association to help offer support in grant writing, business affairs (legal and accounting), and sales and marketing.

Because arts administrative resources are most often available only in English, artists said language could also be a major barrier to navigating the industry, in a territory were 68 per cent of Nunavummiut count Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongue.

Language and culture was a recurrent theme in the consultations. For example, stakeholders said they wanted to see more films and television projects in Inuktitut.

“Language loss is a huge issue in the territory and it is difficult to find Inuktitut-speaking actors,” read the Nunavut Film Development Corp.’s submission to the report. “Nunavummiut have a large pool of talent to draw from but versioning in Inuktitut and producing in that language was a goal identified early on.”

The creation of Nunavut TV or an Inuit-language channel is an important goal towards the presentation of language and culture, the report found.

As a needs assessment paper, the report does not make recommendations on how to respond to art sectors challenges, although it identified a number of options commonly presented by those who took part in consultations.

Those include the creation of Nunavut-specific infrastructure, like a territorial arts council and a Nunavut Arts Centre.

You can read the full report, titled Arts Administrative Skills and Resource Development in Nunavut’s Arts and Culture sector here.

You can also read an Inuktitut version of the report here.

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