Qaumajuq’s Opening Celebrations

Project Spotlight: A virtual launch opens the new Inuit art centre

Creating Representation Technology
An inuksuk in a snowy landscape, against a sky with northern lights in hues of green, blue, and purple.

At the end of March 2021, Qaumajuq (the Inuit art centre) opened virtually to Manitobans and audiences around the globe.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a large in-person gathering,  many supporters were able to share in the excitement from anywhere, as Qaumajuq opened its doors for its first visitors. Together we have unveiled a new cultural and architectural landmark in the heart of the Canada. On January 1, 2021, the WAG kicked off Qaumajuq365, the inaugural year celebrations, with a light show on the two connected WAG-Qaumajuq buildings, evoking the Northern Lights. Come February, the lights got brighter with projections of contemporary Inuit art, film, and imagery on Friday and Saturday nights.

An inuksuk in a snowy landscape, against a sky with northern lights in hues of green, blue, and purple.


The WAG hosted a virtual media event on March 11, promoting Qaumajuq and the virtual opening, which was attended by over 200 media outlets from around the world! The WAG has seen unparalleled media coverage internationally (e.g. the New York Times, Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine), nationally (e.g. The Globe & Mail, CBC, CTV, Global, APTN, Canadian Architecture, and Nunatsiaq News), and locally, including a nine-page spread in the Winnipeg Free Press.

A dancer in an arctic landscape spins a baton, releasing coloured smokes in red, yellow, and pink hues.
Hoop dancer Marika Sila during the virtual opening of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre. COURTESY WINNIPEG ART GALLERY-QAUMAJUQ.

The virtual opening of Qaumajuq premiered over two nights, Thursday, March 25 (Part I) and Friday, March 26 (Part II), 2021, transporting participants to the light-filled spaces of Qaumajuq with artwork, performances, voices and ceremonies bridging North and South. Presented by BMO Financial Group and hosted by WAG’s Dr. Stephen Borys and Julia Lafreniere with Nunavut’s Madeleine Allakariallak, this two-part documentary lets visitors feel the light and hope of Qaumajuq no matter where they are.

Part I takes visitors on a journey through the new 40,000-square-foot building by Michael Maltzan Architecture with Cibinel Architecture; the world-renowned collection of Inuit art it holds; the education, outreach and meeting place it provides; and the inspiration for its design and function. Performers from Inuit Nunangat, including Inuit performance collective ArtCirq and hoop dancer Marika Sila, come together with Manitoba artists like viral TikTok jiggers and hip-hop dancers the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers, singer-songwriter Don Amero, and throat singers Nikki Komaksiutiksak and Chasity Swan. The event included special appearances by CBC’s Rosanna Deerchild and Juanita Taylor, and many more!

“A light of hope. A place where everyone could come to look for inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation. A bright future. So inspiring.” — Tatjana

Part II shares the story of the spirits that exist within the art, and the blessing of Qaumajuq in ceremony by the Seven Nations of Manitoba. The ceremony helped Qaumajuq and the WAG to begin in a good way and welcome the artworks and building to Treaty 1, Métis and Dakota territory, with a day of prayer. In doing this, Qaumajuq was prepared to open its doors and the spirits of the artworks were made ready to welcome visitors. The video includes mix of celebratory messages with voices from across the country and beyond. 

“Thank you to the elders for sharing their knowledge with us all. It is a gift I promise to honor.” — Lars

To date, the two-part virtual opening has been viewed over 52,000 times and counting on the WAG’s direct channels, with media broadcasting partners streaming widely locally and nationally. Visitors can watch the production by Eagle Vision for free anytime at

The opening week of Qaumajuq at the end of March 2021 featured free admission thanks to Canada Life and was fully booked at 25% capacity with close to 6,000 visitors. More inaugural year festivities will be hosted, online and in person, at

A community of artists, Indigenous advisors, partners, and stakeholders have collaborated to envision and build a vibrant gathering place where all are welcome and where everyone’s stories are told and heard in a true spirit of reconciliation. Qaumajuq thanks them for being part of this incredible transformation.

Credit: This video was originally published by The Winnipeg Art Gallery, March 25, 2021. COURTESY WINNIPEG ART GALLERY-QAUMAJUQ.

This story is part of the Qaumajuq Partner Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.