History of the Inuit Art Society

In fewer than six years, the Inuit Art Society (IAS) has more than quadrupled its founding membership and has successfully demonstrated its dedication to providing education about, and support for, Inuit arts and culture.

Initially, two inspired collectors of Inuit art invited their peers to a meeting in Indianapolis to discuss the formation of a group that would celebrate the arts of the Circumpolar North. Julie Klaper, co-donor with her husband of the Marty and Julie Klaper Collection at the Eiteljorg Museum, and Mara Wasburn (1941-2011), Associate Professor in the School of Technology at Purdue University, convened a meeting of twenty participants in August of 2002 (IAS Meetings Timeline).

Since then, the 501(c)3 organization has held a series of meetings that have brought artists, collectors, dealers, and educators together to immerse themselves in the study of a wide range of Inuit-related topics. Films, lectures, tours, and, above all, demonstrations by Inuit artists (IAS Participating Artists), have contributed to a growing appreciation of the remarkable creativity and hardiness of the native peoples of the Artic.

Norman Cohn, Co-Director of the film The Journals of Knut Rasmussen, asks,“How could people last for 4,000 years in the most inhospitable climate on earth, if they weren’t geniuses?” He continues,  “The Inuit figured out how to turn bones into tools, how to turn skins into warm clothing, how to feed their families for generations.”

But the Inuit have done more than surviving and adapting. They have turned everyday materials into objects of great beauty, often tinged with quiet humor. They have shared their hearts and heritage with a frequently indifferent and sometimes insensitive audience. They have earned our admiration and respect.

That is why the mission of the Inuit Art Society is to provide “education about, and support for, the culture and art forms and artists of the Arctic.” And that is why the IAS membership continues to grow as this organization takes on a leadership role in Inuit arts advocacy.