Connecting to the North through Northwest Territories' Artists


Disponible en Anglais seulement. 

A photograph of five slippers of various sizes and colours lined up next to eachother.

Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) is diverse in nature—and so are the artists that live here. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the land and rich culture and tradition of its people, artists of all genres are inspired to create and share the story of their art.

The NWT is composed of 33 communities spread over more than one million square kilometres. There are 11 official languages and three distinct Indigenous groups across the territory: Dene, Inuit and Métis. The rich heritage and traditions of the territory’s First Nations Peoples have always been an integral part of their cultures. With little else than what could be found in nature, these groups were able to survive and flourish in the harsh arctic landscape. This spirit can still be seen today in residents who continue to live a traditional way of life including hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering from the land. 

The arrival of the North West Company in the late 1700s (and the Hudson Bay Company shortly thereafter) brought changes to the Indigenous Peoples’ subsistence lifestyle. With this, the trade of locally harvested furs for manufactured goods became the main economic driver of the NWT throughout much of the next century. By the mid-1800s, modern materials and designs were being used in traditional arts and fine crafts, giving way to raw materials that were gathered and processed from the land. As a result of this influence, artists continue to work to sustain and revitalize traditional art techniques and ensure they are preserved for future generations.

Today, the NWT is made up of a multicultural population from all parts of Canada and the world. Many arrive here looking for adventure, opportunity or just something different. All are inspired by the beauty and space of the North’s natural landscape to explore and create. 

The NWT Arts Program is a marketing initiative run by the Government of the NWT. It represents the eclectic mix of artists that call the NWT their home—from visual artists that create traditional and contemporary arts and fine crafts, to filmmakers, photographers, literary artists and performing artists, all have a piece of art with a story to share.

A photograph of five slippers of various sizes and colours lined up next to eachother.
Left to right: Slippers by Mary Louise Drygeese, Shirley Bernarde, Rose Bonnetrouge, Lucy Jane Simon, Mary Inuktalik © The artists.

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Each week, the Arctic Arts Summit Digital Platform spotlights an important region of the circumpolar North or organization working to support Arctic artists and their practices. Spotlights are an exciting introduction to the variety of perspectives across the circumpolar world and we invite you to learn more across the platform.