Sandra Buhai Barz, D.Litt., October 18, 2016
Sandra Buhai Barz

Raised in an eclectic Chicago suburb, Ms. Sandra Barz developed a deep appreciation for different cultures and ethnicities early in life. The daughter of a businessman and a social worker, she grew up with a love for storytelling and, in Grade 6, would make her own newspapers. Ms. Barz studied sociology in college but ultimately pursued a career in publishing, for years working at American magazines Redbook and McCall’s.

What began as a personal interest in Inuit art as a collector would grow into a lifelong commitment to the people of the Far North. In 1976, Ms. Barz launched the first international newsletter on circumpolar art and affairs, Arts and Culture of the North, once realizing no such forum existed. She wanted to give a voice to Inuit artists, believing their rich culture should be shared with the world. The publication served as an important catalyst, bringing together artists, scholars, curators and collectors for the first time and capturing a time of enormous growth. Ms. Barz would go on to write and publish three books of documentation on Inuit printmaking, now recognized as the definitive works in the field. This labour of love is an unprecedented record of contemporary Inuit art that is widely cited by students and scholars in both the academic and museum worlds.

Ms. Barz championed the culture and creativity of a people. She made 35 trips to the Arctic over 40 years, painstakingly documenting the tiniest of details, from artists’ birthdates to their genealogy, all in an effort to preserve this history for future generations. She faced a formidable task: language barriers, remote communities, and collections hidden away in museums and in the homes of private collectors. Colleagues describe her accomplishment as an extraordinary feat, and her dedication as inspirational. She grew a database of nearly 8,000 Inuit prints from across the Arctic that date back almost six decades.

She also launched educational tours to the Far North, bringing people from around the world to meet artists face-to-face and expand their appreciation for Inuit culture and traditions. The study conference series Ms. Barz developed in Canadian cities and south of the border were groundbreaking and forged community connections that without her foresight might never have happened.

Ms. Barz’s legacy is to preserve the legacy of others. She has generously donated her collected materials to the National Gallery of Canada, the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the University of Manitoba archives.

For her outstanding example of altruism, the University of Manitoba is proud to bestow upon Ms. Sandra Barz a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

Sandra Buhai Barz

Sandra Buhai Barz