Inuit Futures Ilinniaqtuit Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Project Spotlight: Discover how past participants of the program are leveraging their skills in support of their communities. 

ch’i cha jų̃ kwa’ch’e Dän däw Kwenjè uts’an kwäts’eden-ji
A person paddles in a kayak while the sun sets over the lake, in hues of orange and gold.

Jessica Winters — Dec 2020

Since graduating as an Inuit Futures Ilinniaqtuk, Jessica began a full-time position working for the Nunatsiavut Government as the community energy lead, a 3-year position funded through Impact Canada’s Indigenous Off Diesel Initiative which supports Indigenous communities to decrease diesel reliance and transition to more sustainable energy sources. She is doing important work creating energy plans for the five surrounding communities in her area. Previous to this position, she was living in Halifax and working as a project scientist doing acoustic analysis of marine animals. 

Jessica was among the first cohort of Inuit Futures Ilinniaqtuit, joining the project from its outset in 2018. Before becoming a mentor in her community, Jessica made her curatorial debut under the mentorship of Heather Igloliorte, who leads the Inuit Futures Project, and Darryn Doull, former curator of Canadian art at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Winters and Doull co-curated Nunatsiavut artist Billy Gauthier’s exhibition Saunituinnaulungitotluni | Beyond Bone in 2019. Jessica and Darryn designed all aspects of the exhibition and developed original writing and research for the exhibition didactics. The connections she made with mentors, students and artists on the project were invaluable. As Winters says: “Inuit Futures has connected me with a lot of people that think and see the world the same way I do, which I am very grateful for.”

A person paddles in a kayak while the sun sets over the lake, in hues of orange and gold.
Jessica kayaking in her hometown, Makkovik NL. Jessica has returned to Makkovic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COURTESY JESSICA WINTERS.

Darcie Bernhardt — Jan 2021

Since graduating from NSCAD University in 2019, Darcie Bernhardt has been working full time out of their art studio in Halifax’s Army Navy Store, spending their time preparing for upcoming commissions and exhibitions. In October 2020, Darcie and fellow Inuit Futures Alumni Tom Mcleod screened their short film Greed Story at ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival. Darcie credited Inuit Futures for connecting them and fellow Illiniaqtuk Tom in 2018 at the Inuit Futures Annual Gathering. “Tom and I are from similar communities and didn’t talk until we met [through] Inuit Futures.”

Alongside these projects, Darcie was the recipient of several awards and distinctions in 2020, including being noted as one of RBC’s Emerging Artists in October 2020, and winning the Indigenous Artist Recognition Award from Arts Nova Scotia in November.

Darcie encourages young Inuit artists to follow their passions and take advantage of opportunities to travel outside of their communities. “For me, taking trips outside of my community made me realize how special my community is, and helped me realize that my perspective is important. Even though I am away from home, I still feel connected.”

Headshot of Darcie Bernhardt, with a painting behind them depicting their uncle kneeling to make slippers on the floor of his home.
Darcie in their studio with their painting, Nungki. COURTESY DARCIE BERNHARDT.

Megan Kyak-Monteith

Since graduating with a BFA from NSCAD University in 2019, Megan Kyak-Monteith’s art career has taken off, including a sold-out solo exhibition at the Marion Scott Gallery, two magazine covers, and several large-scale commissions. Megan currently works full-time out of her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia where, over the past year, she has focused on painting and digital illustration. 

In 2020, Megan’s artwork was featured on the cover of both Inuktitut Magazine and Inuit Art Quarterly. “I knew I was going to get my piece shown in [Inuit Art Quarterly], but I didn’t realize my work would be on the cover! I only found out a week before it was released, and it was super surprising.”

The cover of Inuit Art Quarterly magazine, featuring a painting of an iceberg in vibrant blue waters.
Inuit Art Quarterly Winter 2020 Issue with cover art by Megan Kyak-Monteith.

To young Inuit who may be interested in growing a career in the arts, Megan recommends ignoring any pressures to have all of the professional skills and tools ready before they begin: “Start small. Take advantage of what you have around you, and start there. You don’t have to wait until it is the right time to start. Making art for yourself in your spare time really means a lot.” 

A black-and-white photograph of Megan Kyak-Monteith, smiling at the camera.

Benjamin McGregor

Benjamin McGregor recently graduated from Capilano University’s Motion Picture Arts Program in North Vancouver, BC. Born in Inuvik and raised in Yellowknife, NT, Ben is currently working in Yellowknife with Western Arctic Moving Pictures as a coordinator and technical assistant for the 4th Annual Symposia of the Future Imaginary. As a writer and director, Ben’s projects have screened at local, national and international film festivals (Whistler Film Festival, Los Angeles Recovery Film Festival), and was nominated for a Leo Award from the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of British Columbia. He is passionate about stories that tackle social issues and loves genre films. Ben is happy to have begun his career in BC, but he is excited to continue to tell stories in the Northwest Territories and share them with wider audiences.

Benjamin is looking forward to continuing his work in film and his goal is to make projects in Yellowknife that would be the same quality as they would be in BC. In the past, studying in a city like Vancouver or other cities in the South with arguably more resources for film and media, Benjamin has worried if he can really make a living in Yellowknife. But that doesn’t deter him from continuing his work in Yellowknife. As he says, “because of the film industry here, it’s a lot more of a community and it’s budding. It’s very small in relation to the rest of Canada, but it’s such an interesting place with so many interesting people and the scenery is amazing. There’s so much potential here”. Benjamin is incredibly grateful to Inuit Futures for helping him see how he can use his film-related interests to imagine how his community can be part of his work. Through Inuit Futures, which he calls a “fantastic organization,” he has been able to find work that has kept him in his field, and he can continue to imagine how his small but mighty community can be showcased to the rest of the world. 

A black-and-white photograph of Benjamin McGregor, smiling at the camera.
Headshot of Benjamin McGregor. COURTESY BENJAMIN MCGREGOR.

Contributor Biographies: 

Maggie Hinbest is an MA student in Art History at Concordia University, under the supervision of Dr. Heather Igloliorte. Maggie completed her undergraduate degree in Visual Art at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Over the course of her undergraduate studies, Maggie held positions at several galleries across Vancouver Island (Nanaimo Art Gallery and The View Gallery in Nanaimo, and Madrona Gallery in Victoria). Maggie’s MA thesis research is supported by a SSHRC Canadian Graduate Scholarship for 2020-2021, the Gail and Stephen A Jarislowsky Bursary in Canadian Art, and a Faculty of Fine Arts Fellowship. She currently works as the Online Events Coordinator for Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq Project.

Jasmine Sihra is a Punjabi settler/second-generation immigrant, born and raised in Tkaronto/Toronto. An emerging scholar and curator, she researches the intersection of artistic practices, climate change, critical curating, decolonizing methodologies and sustainability. Supported by a SSHRC CGS-M, she is completing her MA in Art History at Concordia University under the guidance of Dr. Heather Igloliorte, examining the relationship between Inuit artists and Pacifica artists and their responses to climate change within their respective communities. Jasmine has fundraised, curated and contributed to many different projects throughout her academic career. Most recently, she worked with Dr. Igloliorte as a special projects coordinator for INUA, the inaugural exhibition at Qaumajuq in Winnipeg as part of the Inuit Futures Project.


This story is part of the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq Project Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.