Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 18, 2014 - 8:09 am

Vandals wreak havoc inside Pangnirtung arts centre

“So much was wrecked that we’re still in the process of appraising the damage”

DAVID MURPHY
Vandals smashed windows and stole or destroyed about 100 carvings at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts during a Feb. 9 break-in. (FILE PHOTO)
Vandals smashed windows and stole or destroyed about 100 carvings at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts during a Feb. 9 break-in. (FILE PHOTO)

The RCMP in Pangnirtung are looking for a group of vandals who stole dozens of carvings and pulverized many others at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts during a Feb. 9 break-in.

The centre’s general manager, James Paris, described the incident as “grievous, malicious vandalism.”

“So much was wrecked that we’re still in the process of appraising the damage,” he said.

Nunavut RCMP spokesperson Yvonne Niego said vandals stole or destroyed about 100 carvings.

“Of course we’re looking for community help. Whatever they can provide, or they can contact the local detachment or Crime Stoppers,” Niego said.

The Uqqurmiut centre sells art made by local artists, including prints, sculptures and crafts.

Paris estimated the vandals caused up to $12,000 worth of damage to windows and another $8,000 in broken and stolen carvings.

“Some things are just absolutely pulverized and smashed for no reason,” Paris said.

That includes a big expensive antler carving.

“It was a skull with a full set of antlers, it was quite ornate. In fact we’re not even sure of the original artists, but it’s been here a while,” Paris said.

That carving is now “utterly destroyed,” as well as several small to medium sized carvings that are big sellers for the centre.

“It’s the kind of inventory that we’d be counting on filling orders and also for the coming season,” Paris said.

“We haven’t entirely felt the repercussions of this. We probably will for end of year, our fiscal end of year. And definitely I think into the next summer,” he said. 

Paris suspects more than one person committed the crime.

“I’m thinking at least four people to do that much damage in that short of time,” Paris said.

Paris said the incident will hurt the centre’s future plans, such as its next print collection, and even hiring new staff for their tapestry studio.

“We’d like to hire some new people. We’d like to be a significant employer. But when you have things like this happening, it kind of throws you back a few steps.”

Those plans are now on hold for up to three weeks until the centre repairs the damage, especially broken windows that are letting cold air flow into the centre. 

“Instead I have to attend to containing the heat in the building right now,” he said

Paris said this is the worst vandalism he’s seen during his two-year stay in Pangnirtung.

Last year vandals wreaked havoc at the Pangnirtung airport, and vandalized the hamlet building.

And Paris said such vandalism hurts the community.

“This is really unfortunate because it diverts any time, resources or money that we could apply to supporting the local artists and crafts people. It prevents us from being able to buy from the community,” he said.

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