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Queen’s National Scholar wins prestigious Trudeau Fellowship

Norman Vorano giving a lecture.
Dr. Vorano discusses the North Baffin Drawings with guests at Queen's Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

Queen’s National Scholar Norman Vorano has been named as one of only five recipients of a prestigious Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Fellowship – one of the most competitive awards available to humanities and social science scholars in Canada.

Dr. Vorano, assistant professor in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation and curator of Indigenous art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, was recognized for his work with Indigenous communities in the Canadian Arctic to record, understand, and share Inuit art history. Through innovative public outreach, his career-long efforts have sought to transcend cultural and generational boundaries so Indigenous voices are central in shaping how their history is shared.

Dr. Norman Vorano
Dr. Norman Vorano

“I am truly honoured to receive this fellowship from the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation,” says Dr. Vorano. “I am also humbled by the task ahead, to continue to build a collaborative research network of individuals and communities across the North who share in the belief that our public museums, schools, and universities can do more to promote cross-cultural understanding, empathy, reconciliation, and community health.”

This unique recognition speaks to the nationally important collections curated by Dr. Vorano and heightens awareness of Indigenous art in Canada.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Vorano on being named a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Fellow,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “This major award speaks to the quality and significance of his contributions to arts and culture in our country. His collaborative work with Northern communities to preserve and share these collections stands as a shining example of how history can and should be written to reflect the experiences of all Canadians.”

In 2017, Dr. Vorano debuted a travelling exhibition of Inuit sketches originally collected by Terry Ryan, an arts advisor in Cape Dorset who journeyed to three North Baffin communities in 1964 and invited people to use pencil and paper to record their traditional knowledge before encroaching Southern influences transformed their way of life.

The exhibition featured a selection of sketches created around Clyde River, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet alongside video and audio commentary that Dr. Vorano collected from some of those very same artists, their descendants and communities more than 50 years after the drawings were made.

Dr. Vorano in Clyde River, Nunavut. (Aug. 2015)

“Showcasing this collection, particularly in Northern venues, has been a vital first step in reconnecting communities in Nunavut with this vast and profoundly important record of their heritage,” says Dr. Vorano, who will use the $225,000 Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Fellowship to fund the second phase of the project. “The next step is to work with the communities to build a culturally-appropriate reciprocal network that links this collection, and possibly other Arctic collections from museums around the world, to their communities of origin.

The creation of this ‘Arctic Cultural Heritage Research Network’ (ACHRN) is premised on the understanding that access to cultural heritage promotes health and well-being. The ultimate goal of this digital platform is to provide all Inuit, including educators and heritage workers in Nunavut, access to heritage collections stored in southern museums – collections from which they are largely alienated.

Every year, the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation awards up to five fellowships to individuals recognized for their productivity, their commitment to communicating their findings to the public and their ability to devise innovative solutions to some of the major issues facing Canada and the world.