Ryan, Terrence

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Ryan, Terrence

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  • Ryan, Terry

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Terrence Ryan was born on December 18, 1933 in Toronto, Ontario. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1954. In 1956 Ryan first traveled to the Arctic, working as a meteorologist in Clyde River, Nunavut before settling in Cape Dorset, Nunavut in 1960 where he began working for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (or WBEC, now the Kinngait Studios). Hired as a temporary art advisor to James Houston, he became general manager shortly thereafter and held that position until 2000. The co-operative functions to assist Inuit artists both to develop and sell their art. In Cape Dorset, Ryan was a jack of all trades: arts advisor, justice of the peace, coroner and occasional ‘powder monkey’, blasting overburden to expose stone for sculpture. He was also the first non-Inuk ever to be hired by an Inuit-owned association.

Ryan brought to his work his own sensibility as an artist, deep pragmatism, an innovative spirit and a great love and respect for the North and its people. In 1964, he made an arduous four-month dogsled trip to Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Igloolik collecting 1,863 pencil and pen drawings by 159 Inuit, ages seven to 72, living in and around the area. The drawing are now in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History, Ottawa. During his time at the WBEC, Ryan sourced stone carvings, developed a fine arts program for the community, particularly the production of Cape Dorset's annual print collection and helped organize community visits on behalf of travelling artists to the north for the benefit of Cape Dorset printmakers, carvers, and other artists and craft makers. Visiting artists included Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Les Levine, Toni Onley, and William Kurelek, to name a few.

Ryan developed a successful network of domestic and international art dealers for Inuit art from Cape Dorset, including the Dorset Fine Arts marketing and distribution centre in Toronto, from which he retired in 2008. Countries as diverse as Greenland, India, and Africa sought his advice to help them develop the fine art of their indigenous peoples.

Ryan was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983 in recognition of his outstanding work in helping to start the WEBC, and for his efforts to both encourage and market Inuit art. He was made and Honorary Fellow of the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1995. In 2010, Ryan was awarded the Governor General's Award for Visual Arts - Outstanding Contribution, for his contributions to Canadian Art through the WEBC.

Terry Ryan married Patricia Tymchuk in 1966, they had three children together: Michael, Peter, and Patricia. The couple later divorced. Ryan married Leslie Boyd in 1992. They had one daughter: Kate. He currently resides in Toronto, Ontario.


Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
Toronto, Ontario.

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Created by Andrea Martin, February 2016.


  • English



"History of Cape Dorset and the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative", The Co-operative Learning Centre, accessed 8 February 2016, http://www.learningcentre.coop/resource/history-cape-dorset-and-west-baffin-co-operative.

"Order of Canada - Terrence Ryan, C.M., A.O.C.A.", Honours, accessed 8 February 2016, http://archive.gg.ca/honours/search-recherche/honours-desc.asp?lang=e&TypeID=orc&id=1491.

Inuit Art Quarterly, Volume 24, No. 1, 2009.
Inuit Art Quarterly, Volume 24, No. 2, 2009.

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