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National collection enriched by close to 1,000 works of Inuit art

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The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., has been enriched by a donation of more than 900 works of Inuit sculpture, prints, drawings and other material.

The collection arrives from the estate of the late Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess, a prominent Calgary gallery owner, art historian, professor and business person. She had assembled the collection over decades of travel and research in Canada’s North.

“Marmie, as she was known to friends, was really a force of nature,” said Dean Oliver, senior director of research and chief curator at the museum.

“She was deeply immersed in western Alberta [and] Calgary culture, but also northern and western Indigenous culture for her entire adult life. [She] amassed an absolutely gob-smacking array of items … and kept absolutely meticulous collector records of all of these things,” said Oliver. She recorded the dates, times, places, cost, location of the purchase, and more. 

The late Margaret Perkins Hess was a lifelong collector of Inuit art. (University of Lethbridge/Alberta Order of Excellence)

The collection is dominated by more than 750 sculptures, but it also includes, according to a press release, “120 artworks on paper and 25 examples of historical material collected from approximately 30 northern communities.”

Those communities include Cape Dorset, Baker Lake, Inukjuak, Que., Naujaat, Taloyoak and Kugluktuk. The collection represents Inuit artists from the 1950s through to the 1980s. 

Hess’s donation brings the Inuit art collection at the national museum to about 13,000 items, Oliver said.

In addition to the inherent beauty of the items in Hess’s collection, Oliver said there is another unique element to the collection.

“Most of the artists in the collection are female,” Oliver said. “Many of [Hess’s] relationships were with women artists and crafts persons. So it allows us to speak to the length and breadth of craft development and skill across northern Canada, but also … [to] the role of women in these industries and agencies and what they were doing in families and communities.”

Owls and Owlets by Agnes Nulluq Iqqugaqtuq of Pelly Bay, is one of the works of art included in a donation to the Canadian Museum of History from the estate of the late Margaret Hess. (©Musée canadien de l’histoire / © Canadian Museum of History)

Full digitization could take at least 2 years

Among the next steps for the collection is for the extensive paper records to be reviewed, confirmed and digitized, a process Oliver said could take at least two years.

“Marrying up the paper record to the actual item and then making sure that’s searchable and integrated with our own databases … will take a while.”

In the meantime, plans for travelling exhibits are in the works, but Oliver said it’s too soon to say when elements of the new collection might make their way North.

In some cases, the collection extends the museum’s holdings for some of the smaller communities. For example, 140 items in the collection come from Taloyoak, which will be added to the 57 items from the community the museum already holds.

Oliver said the new collection will provide insight into artwork in smaller communities.

“Some things people know a lot about — like the [Cape] Dorset prints — but other communities we knew very little about what their production was.”

Transformation by Peggy Ekagina of Kugluktuk, is one of the works of art included in a donation to the Canadian Museum of History from the estate of the late Margaret Hess. (©Musée canadien de l’histoire / © Canadian Museum of History)

Life-long collector

Hess was born in Calgary in 1916, but studied in Toronto during the 1930s where she struck up a friendship with members of the Group of Seven. Inspired by sprawling images of Canada’s natural beauty, Hess came to northern Canada where she became familiar with Inuit artists, often buying work directly from them.

In 1970 she opened Calgary Galleries Ltd. where she sold Indigenous art. She died on Sept. 2, 2016.

Since then elements of her estate have been distributed according to her will. In 2018 the University of Lethbridge received a collection of art valued at more than $4 million from Hess’s estate. It was the largest donation the university had ever received at the time.

“She was 100 years old when passed away,” Oliver said. “Our sense is that she was actively collecting for around 75 years of that hundred and with the passion that was as undiminished on her last day as the first one.”

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa

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Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa

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In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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City eyes five big themes for Ottawa’s new official plan

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As Ottawa maps out its future for the next 25-plus years, city staff propose focusing on five major areas, including the places we live and the ways we move around the capital.

A staff report to the city’s planning committee lays out five themes for future public consultations, before city council finalizes the plan.

1. Growth Management: City staff say Ottawa should focus on building up, rather than out. Staff also suggest the city provide direction on the type of new housing developments, rather than focusing on the number of units in a development, to encourage a wider variety of housing types.

2. Mobility: Staff say the city should encourage active transportation — like walking and cycling — and transit use by better co-ordinating land use and transportation planning. The report also encourages designing streets to better accomodate pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving connections to the O-Train and Transitway.

3.  Urban and Community Design: Because Ottawa is a major city and the nation’s capital, staff say the design of our city’s buildings and skyline should be a higher calibre to reflect that status. Staff also suggest the city provide high-level direction for better designed parks and public spaces.

4. Climate, Energy and Public Health: Staff say residents’ health must be foundational to the city’s new official plan, with policies contributing to creating more inclusive, walkable, and sustainable communities.

5. Economic Development: Because much of Ottawa’s employment is knowledge-based, the city suggests those employment spaces could be better integrated into neighbourhoods and along main streets and transit nodes, instead of being isolated in business parks. City staff also suggest the city encourage more business incubation and identify opportunities to increase local food production.

The city’s new official plan will map out the city’s growth to 2046. The five themes and the plan’s high-level policy direction will go before the city’s planning committee, next week.

Public consultation and fine-tuning is expected to happen before city council approves the final version of the new official plan in 2021.

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