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Born in 1953, Marie Bouchard grew up in a Manitoba farming community. She completed a Bachelor of Arts Honors degree at the University of Winnipeg in 1980, an Honors History degree in 1984 and a Master’s degree in Canadian History at the University of Manitoba in 1986. In 1985, as part of her Master’s work, she was invited by the Winnipeg Art Gallery to assist Inuit art scholar Jean Blodgett in the 1986 exhibition “Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective.” The accompanying exhibition catalogued detailed Oonark’s artistic oeuvre and her life at Back River based on interviews Bouchard conducted in Baker Lake, Nunavut.
Upon receiving a Canada Council Explorations Grant, Bouchard with her husband, Jim McLeod moved to Baker Lake in 1986 where she undertook indepth research on the people of Back River and the starvation of the 1950s. Her collection of archival research and oral history in the form of numerous documents and interviews also details the Government of Canada’s role during the relocation of Inuit from outlying camps to the fledgling community of Baker Lake during the 1950s and the Inuit survivors’ account of these events. These records are significant because they document the ensuing cultural upheaval and tragedy from starvation because of a lack of resources and Government plans to populate the North and promote sovereignty during the Cold War.
During her eleven years in Baker Lake, Bouchard developed her interest in Inuit art and economic development. She began supporting Inuit women artists and resurrected their creation of intricately embroidered wall hangings soon after arriving in the community. Bouchard eventually opened Baker Lake Fine Arts, a small, privately-owned cottage industry which brought financial support to the artists, as well as the necessary art supplies and marketing skills. With the closing of the local sewing centre, her venture allowed women in the community to continue to sew and care for their children at home. Her interests included all genres of art but primarily focused on the works on cloth which she showcased in public and commercial exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Her collection chronicles the production of Baker Lake works on cloth, soapstone carvings and drawing in the area over a ten year period through slide images, artist interviews and her library of Inuit art exhibition catalogues and books.
Bouchard was also instrumental in establishing the Baker Lake Historical Society which promoted cultural tourism and the revival of traditional knowledge for educational purposes.
Bouchard left Baker Lake for Winnipeg Manitoba in 1997. She worked as an independent art curator and consultant for the next ten years. She repatriated the representation and celebration of art by local Inuit artists by involving them in the representation of their work and hosting exhibition openings in the community. She curated major art exhibitions focused on Inuit and aboriginal art for institutions such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Itsarnittakarvik: Inuit Heritage Centre, Plug In ICA, and in the United States at the Los Angeles Fowler Museum, and New York’s American Indian Community House, as well as at several college galleries. She also took her collection of Baker Lake works on cloth to Japan for a major international exhibition. She has delivered numerous lectures and author essays and articles on Baker Lake works on cloth, drawings, sculptures, eco-museums and tourism.
Winnipeg, Northern Arctic (Canada), Canada, Baker Lake (Nunavut), Northwest Territories
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Created by Jeanette Mockford (November 2012). Revised by N. Courrier (November 2019).