Charlottesville, VA – Arctic Culture Forum and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum are pleased to announce the Inuit film, Uvanga (Myself), will be shown at the 2013 Virginia Film Festival on November 7th.

Winner of “Best Feature Film” at the 2013 Yellowknife Film Festival, Uvanga features the culture, the people, and the majestic landscape of Nunavut will be shown at the Regal Cinemas Downtown Mall Theater at 5:30pm on November 7th followed by a discussion with Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Anthropologist, Dr. Stephen Loring.

Directed by Marie-Helène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu, Uvanga, is about Anna and her son, Tomas, who return to the small Arctic community of Igloolik where Thomas’ father lived. While this homecoming is mixed with memories of a brief but painful chapter in the town’s shared history, Anna and Tomas strive to reconnect with the family they can no longer ignore. More about the film can be found at and see a trailer at

Tickets for Uvanga are available online at or by calling the box office at (434) 924-3376.


“Meeting a Muskox” in Cavalier Daily

The Arctic Culture Forum shows Charlottesville a new side to far-away culture

by Kristen Clevenson | Oct 02| Cavalier Daily

Last Saturday, I met a muskox — well, in a way.

The Arctic Culture Forum, an educational art exhibit started by Judith Varney Burch to spread knowledge about Arctic cultures and conditions, opened its doors Saturday to students and Charlottesville residents. Community members were able to to stop by, taste some delicious baked goods, play Arctic culture games — including the creation of traditional string figures — and learn about Arctic art and culture.

The forum is located in the Arctic Inuit Gallery, on the second floor of a small yellow house down Elliewood Avenue. The space, covered with framed pieces and packed with sculptures, allows visitors to relax into the welcoming environment.

The exhibit is inviting, encouraging visitors to carry on enlightening conversations rather than speak in hushed voices. With Inuit myths sprinkled across the incredible art throughout the exhibit, it feels like you have left Charlottesville and entered the Arctic. Most notably, the central piece, the Muskox, a furry arctic mammal, brings the exhibit to life. Who would have thought I would meet one in central Virginia?

Burch personally collected the museum’s pieces and is able to identify their origins and even the artists who made the pieces. “With the art itself, there’s something — it’s a visceral kind of quality,” she said. “I’m seeing the story of the North in this art.”

Personally friends with many of the artists, Burch is able to get the full history of each work of art. One wall hanging tells the story of Sedna, the Goddess of the Sea. The added personality and context make visitors feel like insiders as they wander through the museum.

A hidden gem in the Charlottesville arts scene, the forum will be hosting a film for the upcoming Virginia Film Festival after partnering with Charlottesville’s Aboriginal art museum to produce “Uvanga,” the story of a mother and son who leave Montreal to travel to the son’s late father’s community in Igloolik in the Canadian Arctic.


Arctic Culture Forum Open HouseOpen House1

The Arctic Culture Forum held an Open House on September 28th at the Inuit Art Gallery located at 22 Elliewood Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Enjoying the art and the fare.

Local community members and University students attended the event that intended to introduce the Arctic Culture Forum and its mission to the local community.  Visitors met the staff including co-directors,  Judy Varney Burch and Beatrix Arendt, and current interns Berceste Demiroglu, Therese Codd and Larise Joasil.  

University of Virginia student, Dana, shows off her ability to play the Ukaliq string game.

University of Virginia student, Dana, shows off her ability to play the Ukaliq string game.

Visitors viewed Inuit sculpture, paintings, and tapestries while learning about archaeology in the Arctic and Inuit culture.  Visitors were also encouraged to play games,  view videos, and learn more about the Arctic and upcoming events

Thanks to all who attended and we hope to meet more of you in the future.


Kimura Gallery, Anchorage, Alaska: ‘Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth        Sept. 9-Oct. 4

September 12, 2013

30 People by Elizabeth Angrnaqquaq. Embroidery on cloth, 38″ x 26″

Exhibition: “Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth: Traditional Wall Hangings from Baker Lake”
Location: Kimura Gallery (Fine Arts Building, Second Floor)
Show dates: Sept. 9-Oct. 4

“Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth” is a collection of wall hangings created by the women of Baker Lake. Using vibrant colors and patterns, the tapestries convey Inuit stories, beliefs and traditions.


Spirit Transformations by Irene Avaalaaqiaq. Embroidery on cloth, 38″ x 55″

The application of women’s traditional sewing skills to the production of textile art first started in the settlement of Baker Lake, Nunavut, in the 1960s. After making wool duffle mittens, socks and clothing, seamstresses used the leftover multicolored pieces of fabric to make art for hanging on walls. By embracing a foreign artistic medium, the women of Baker Lake made their wall hangings a vehicle for expressing centuries-old Inuit traditions, and gave birth to a uniquely Canadian art form. These textiles tell a cultural story of the Inuit who live in Baker Lake.

This project is supported by a grant from the Elizabeth Tower Endowment for Canadian Studies, in conjunction with the Art Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage.


Inuit vision captured on cloth

by Elaine Corden
Published in the Yukon News,
June 29, 2012

ARTSexhibit1Looking at the 20 textile wall hangings that comprise Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth, a travelling exhibition currently on display at the Yukon Arts Centre Public Art Gallery, it’s near impossible to avoid getting drawn into the construction of each work.

Created by artists from Baker Lake, Nunavut, the collection shows a wide range of approaches to the Inuit art form, which traditionally consists of scraps of leftover duffle wool, arranged and sewn to depict the culture and stories of Inuit.

Up close, figures which appear to be made of cut-outs of fabric are often in fact intricately stitched mosaics of felt, betraying an astonishing amount of work on the part of their creator.

However, at a distance, the 20 hangings attempt an even larger feat – depicting thousands of years of Inuit culture in seemingly simple, iconic images.

There are hunters at work against snowy night skies, abstractions of the tundra, depictions of spirits, and, in a nod to more contemporary iterations of a form which emerged in the absence of written tradition in Inuit culture, a quilt-like work which reads: “Nunavut Our Land.”

There are enough stories hinted at in these Inuit wall hangings to keep a scholar busy for several lifetimes, so perhaps its no surprise that the exhibitions’ curator, Judith Varney Burch, has dedicated herself to collecting, interpreting, and exhibiting these works for almost 30 years.

In fact, Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth is the second travelling exhibit of Inuit wall hangings curated by Varney Burch: the first, Culture on Cloth, has been making its way around the world for the past 10 years, exposing the stories and traditions of Nunavut Inuit to Chinese, Mongolian, Latvian, Russian, Korean, French Mexican, Japanese, American, and Guatemalan audiences.


Victoria Mamnsualuak’s Golden Bears.

Victoria Mamnsualuak’s Golden Bears.

Varney Burch, who will present a free curator’s talk on the exhibit this Saturday at the Yukon Arts Centre, has a personal story that would make a pretty compelling tapestry of its own. Originally hailing from Illinois and now residing in Charlottesville, Virginia, Varney Burch is an unlikely advocate for Inuit culture, but an undoubtedly passionate one nonetheless.

“I first saw Inuit art in Nova Scotia, where we have a house,” explains Varney Burch, who has arrived in Whitehorse after a delay-filled trip from Charlottesville.

“It piqued my interest, and I thought it was interesting and totally different. From there, I spoke with a friend who was from Boston but also spent her summers in Nova Scotia, who collected Inuit art. So we went together to Toronto and Montreal, and of course every door was opened to us, because this was 30 years ago, and no one was (researching or curating Inuit art.)”

Shortly thereafter, Varney Burch contacted the head of the Inuit Art Section at the Bureau of Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa and drove from Montreal through a blizzard to get a better look at the national collection.

Upon viewing Inuit sculptures and wall hangings, Varney Burch immediately noted the deep connection between Inuit art and the northern landscape, and insisted she could not research or collect the work without visiting the land.

“It would have just been like collecting souvenirs if I didn’t have a sense of the people and the land the art came from,” she recalls.

Sensing Varney Burch’s passion and curiosity, the curator arranged for her to visit Arctic Canada, and from there everything fell into place.

Since then, Varney Burch has become one of the world’s most respected authorities on Inuit art. She’s a research collaborator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Arctic Studies Centre, and runs the Arctic Inuit Art Gallery in Virginia.

She’s also presented lectures on Inuit art all over the world, and with the Culture on Cloth touring exhibit, created a forum for cultural exchange with residents of Nunavut, having students around the world create their own wall hangings representing their culture, and then having those hangings sent to Baker Lake.

“There’s a lot of interest in the North and Inuit art around the world right now,” says Varney Burch, who notes that the original Culture on Cloth exhibit is now showing at the Smithsonian, and that Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth will hopefully make an international circumpolar tour next year. “It’s a world that most people don’t know.”

Varney Burch is hopeful that will change, and with each new stop for her touring exhibition, she has more hope for championing Inuit culture.

“These (wall hangings) are an important educational tool that work on all levels. I’ve worked with university professors and even grade school children and used these … I spoke at a conference in Ottawa recently – I don’t know why I was asked to speak – and there were all these important people there – government heads, corporate heads, tourism heads. And I got up and said, ‘200 years from now, nobody is going to have the slightest idea who you are. You’re totally insignificant. Your job is insignificant. None of it matters. Look what it says on the Canadian $20 bill: Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?’ And I think that says it all.”

For more about Judy Varney Burch and her commitment to Inuit art, watch this video: