Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival returns this summer for the first time since 2019, but a shortage of festival board members is creating challenges.
From July 8-17, more than 60 artists and performers will take part in 10 days of art, culture and performance. Before they do, one urgent requirement must to be met: more board members.
In the three decades since the festival began, organizers have developed a consistent plan and the event usually runs like a well-oiled machine, Great Northern Arts Society vice-chair Michel Labine said, making a pitch to prospective directors.
“We’ve been established for so long that it’s just so easy to do every year,” said Labine.
“We have semi-trailers full of all the necessary equipment. The artists and performers just have to get picked up at the airport, so we have to bring them in, get them to their hotel rooms, get them set up, deal with catering and that kind of stuff.
“The board just signs off what needs to be done.”
In order to proceed with routine business, the board needs to meet a three-person quorum. The society is struggling to find members to attend.
While planning for the festival remains in full swing, Labine says the situation is becoming increasingly challenging.
“It’s hard to get things done. It’s frustrating. We wait and wait for people to show. I think we’ve had to cancel four or five meetings in the last three or four months,” he said.
Labine says applicants from across the territory and beyond are welcome, as long as they’re interested in the arts and looking for a way to serve their community.
“It’s a commitment of maybe two to three hours a month,” said Labine.
“There are very little requirements for board members, it’s not heavy duty. I’ve sat in other boards where we were required to do hundreds and hundreds of pages in readings and whatnot. This board is more interactive, we just review the items, sign off on them, and basically help guide the executive assistant.”
When asked what goes on at the festival, Labine reels off an impressive list: “Theatre, fashion, sewing, carvers, basket weavers, working with muskox wool, beading, jewellery, painting, traditional arts, puppetry, a circus troupe which blends performance and storytelling, throat singing, jaw harp singing, traditional book builders, stained glass…”
Previous performers have included the likes of Tanya Tagaq. Labine says the festival is always full of unique moments that make for a memorable summer.
“It’s unreal how much takes place during the festival. At the end, some people don’t want to go back home,” he said.
Labine’s favourite part is the interactions between members of the public and performers.
“I was there once when Tony Whitford, the former Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, was participating in a workshop and making drums,” Labine said.
“He was helping two ladies from Europe and at one point he had to step away for a moment. I told them, ‘That guy that’s helping you is the commissioner here, he has the highest authority in the Northwest Territories. When parliament passes a law, he signs on behalf of the Queen.’
“And when he came back the ladies were so shy! It was just unreal, to have somebody that high up on the echelon in the territories sitting there making a drum with these two ladies and chatting.”
Labine and executive director Dieter Weise are hopeful they will succeed in attracting people passionate about the arts and community to the board before July.
“Serving on the board is an opportunity to help lead the Great Northern Arts Festival in exciting directions,” stated Weise in a press release. “We need people with the commitment to support arts and traditional crafts and music here to help the festival continue to be meaningful for Inuvik in the future.”
Anyone interested in applying can contact the festival to request an application.