The Agnes Etherington Art Centre has received a donation of 23 stone-cut and stencil prints from alumna Margaret McGowan, Artsci’78. Ms. McGowan and her husband have also sponsored a research studentship, and these gifts complement bequests that the couple had previously established.
“As a student at Queen’s, I visited the Agnes regularly to see the exhibits and to enjoy the peace and beauty of the original house,” she says. “Recently, a more immediate opportunity to make a gift presented itself. For years I collected early Inuit prints from Puvirnituq on the east coast of Hudson Bay in northern Québec. I offered the collection of 23 prints to Queen’s, and Professor Norman Vorano was enthusiastic about adding them to the Agnes’s collection. He suggested the prints would offer possibilities for programming, exhibitions, and academic and community-based research.”
The prints span the first decades of printmaking in the Puvirnituq community, from 1961 to 1989. Consisting of 23 works on paper, the donation provides a representative overview of the emergence of printmaking in this community. The prints focus on depictions of birds and animals, show hunting scenes, and life at camp, with a few of the illustrations representing stories from the oral history of the Inuit culture.
In addition to this gift, Ms. McGowan and her husband are supporting a research studentship specific to Indigenous art and with a priority focus on Inuit art. The Research Studentship in Indigenous Art will provide opportunities for Queen’s students to further their studies in art history, art conservation, or Indigenous studies; enable research into the prints of Puvirnituq; and benefit the collections and programs at the Agnes.
To be eligible for the studentship, interested students must submit their applications to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and a committee will decide on the recipient. The studentship will be granted on the basis of demonstrated knowledge, interest, and experience in the relevant disciplines, and the candidate's potential to contribute to the field.
Dr. Vorano, a Queen's National Scholar and Curator of Indigenous Art with the Agnes, says this donation is an excellent complement to the art centre’s existing Inuit graphic arts and resources.
“The McGowan donation will help Queen’s foster and support innovative student research, and enhance the experiential learning possibilities in the gallery and beyond,” says Dr. Vorano. “This donation will help us present a more comprehensive and comparative history of Arctic printmaking, and through the research studentship will also help attract Indigenous students and support a diverse array of graduate and upper-year undergraduate research.”
In addition to furthering scholarship on campus, these new art pieces and the studentship will support Queen’s in its reconciliation efforts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force report called on the university to, among other things, raise awareness of the complex histories of Indigenous Peoples, and to enhance the visibility of Indigenous communities at Queen’s.
The donations also build on past commitments that Ms. McGowan and her husband have made to the Agnes. The couple had previously established two bequests which will establish a second research studentship, and will create a bursary program that will provide full or partial bursaries for elementary and high school students participating in public and art education programming presented by the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
“I am tremendously grateful to Ms. McGowan and her husband for this generous gift of art, which enables us to better reflect the complex expression of Inuit culture, and for such thoughtful support for related research,” says Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. “We look forward to sharing new insights and to presenting these extraordinary prints for all to enjoy, as part of the expanding presence of Indigenous culture on campus and across the wider community.”
A selection of the Puvirnituq prints will be displayed at the Agnes in the spring and summer 2019.
The timing of this donation is also significant, as it comes just as the Master of Art Conservation program announced a $632,000 grant over five years from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will be used to develop conservation research and online courses with a focus on Indigenous material culture.
This story originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.
To support Indigenous art, please consider donating to the Research Studentship in Indigenous artfund.