A Qulliq at the 2022 Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Organizers of Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival say the 2023 edition will not go ahead.
Moments after declaring this year’s cancellation on Facebook, the festival’s board – responding to a mid-May request for comment from Cabin Radio – said it had “major staffing concerns.”
The festival is understood to have been without an executive director since the end of March. Its board struggled to retain the members needed to oversee a significant event on Inuvik’s annual calendar.
An early warning sign surfaced in early May, when Inuvik’s town council said it had received a request for a donation to support the festival – an annual occurrence – but nobody could be found to come forward and speak to that request at a council meeting.
“We fully support the festival and will continue, but I think, historically, we’ve been gradually weaning ourselves away from it,” town senior administrator Grant Hood said at the time.
“The onus on the town, as far as the operation of the festival, seems to be more and more demanding … I think, unfortunately, the organization is in a bit of flux.”
This year’s event would have run from July 14-23. As of Tuesday evening, its website still promised “a 10-day celebration of talent, tradition, and creativity that welcomes artists and performers from across the North and visitors from around the world.”
According to that website, the festival has been running since 1989.
“We know that this will come as a considerable disappointment, not only to the visual artists who attend to share their artistic pursuits, but also to the numerous performers, art enthusiasts, tourists and local attendees who were intending to participate and attend the festival,” organizers wrote in a statement regarding the cancellation.
“With the staffing issues at hand, we would be doing all those participating and attending a disservice to try and host an event that would not showcase those involved to the degree they deserve.”
Organizers said they had “high hopes” that the festival can return next year, and appealed for prospective board members and volunteers to come forward by email.
“We apologize to those who look forward to this annual event but we hope that the future will be bright,” the statement concluded.