Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

March 10, 2014

Inuit art collectors make the trip

TRAVERSE CITY — To say Ann Conway loves Inuit art is an understatement.

Every available space in her Traverse area townhouse is covered with intricately carved figurines. Wall space real estate is at a premium as gorgeous prints vie for the eye. To look at the top of her dresser is to get a sense of daily life in an Inuit village.

“Inuit art – you either love it or hate it, and I love it,” Conway said.

Conway, 72, isn’t a wealthy art collector; she is a retired nurse. But her fascination with Inuit culture extends to buying into an economy that allows people to preserve their way of life. Nor does her interest stop at the items; she went to the Arctic to meet the artists themselves.

“There was a fellow standing around and he showed me around the village. Turns out he was a carver,” Conway said of a chance meeting of artist Donny Pitsiulak on a trip to Kimmirut on South Baffin Island. “Several years later, I picked up a magazine and there he was. ‘There’s Donny!’ I said.”

Conway also is a regular on the Dennos Museum Center’s annual buying trip to Toronto. The trip is a boon for people like her, she said, and she used to burn her vacation time on it in her working years.

“It was the beginning of the end for me,” Conway joked.

Terry Tarnow, Dennos Museum Store Manager, opened the trip to the public a decade ago, and watches the trip book up every year it is offered, she said. People get themselves to Toronto, stay in the same hotel, then meet up for meals and excursions to four non-retail showrooms, the Art Gallery of Ontario and other galleries.

All purchases are processed through the museum store, which both gives buyers access to non-public showrooms and keeps everyone happy, Tarnow said.

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