Indigenous Inspiration: Power couple donates Inuit art collection to UMMA


Kathy and Philip Power

Kathy and Philip Power hold Walking Bear—Unidentified artist (Inukjuak), ca. 1950, stone, ivory. Photo courtesy of UMMA.

Hail to the University of Michigan Museum of Art -- its Victor campaign just found a new leader in donations and it's the best.

Philip and Kathy Power donated $4.5 million worth of Inuit art, making UMMA one of the most important museums for creative works from the indigenous peoples of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Inuit art from the Power collection at UMMA

Left: Unidentified artist (Arctic Quebec), Hunter, stone, ivory, sinew; Right: Peesee Osuitok (1913-1979 Cape Dorset), Seated Hunter with Fish, ca. 1960, stone, ivory. Photos courtesy of UMMA.

The Powers' Inuit collection is mostly from the mid-20th century, with an emphasis on carvings and prints from Baffin Island artists in northeastern Canada.

"The Powers' Inuit collection, one of the most important of its kind in the country, will serve as a platform for UMMA to develop a broad program of engaged learning around the artwork of the Canadian Arctic and related issues, such as climate change," said UMMA Director Christina Olsen in a press release. "We look forward to sharing this remarkable collection with the community and nation."

Inuit art from the Power collection at UMMA

Lucy Qinnuayuak (1915-1982 Cape Dorset), stoneblock, goose fighting for fish, 1966, stone. Photo courtesy of UMMA.

The Power family are longtime donors to U-M, with Philip and his parents, Eugene and Sadye, being lead gift givers to build what became the Power Center for the Performing Arts in 1971.

Eugene and Philip are also the sources for the family's interest in Intuit creative works. They founded Eskimo Art Inc. in 1953, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit that brought stone carvings, prints, drawings, and pastels to the U.S. art market. When Eugene died in 1993, the company's control was given over to Inuit people.

Inuit art from the Power collection at UMMA

Left: Unidentified artist (Arctic Quebec), hunter, stone, ivory, sinew. Right: Peesee Osuitok (1913-1979 Cape Dorset), seated hunter with fish, ca. 1960, stone, ivory. Photo courtesy of UMMA.

"Over the years, our family built a collection of Inuit art that ranks among the best in the world," Philip said in a press release. "Kathy and I decided to gift it to UMMA so as many people as possible could experience it, and understand how Inuit people understand and cope with their harsh Arctic environment -- now under dire threat from climate change."

UMMA will launch the Power Family Program for Inuit Art in spring 2019 with an exhibition of works from the family's collection.

We cheer and cheer again for the Powers' donation to UMMA.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.