An honorary Doctorate of Letters is bestowed upon Ms Darlene Coward Wight in recognition of her tireless dedication to preserve, promote, and celebrate art by Canada’s Inuit.
Ms Wight arrived in Winnipeg in 1986 to fulfill the position of Associate Curator, Inuit Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). Immediately after taking the helm from her excellent predecessors, Ms Wight enacted visionary innovations, exploring new ways to expand the collection and communicate its importance. Since 1986 she has mounted an astonishing 76 exhibitions, about as many as the rest of her Inuit art colleagues have mounted combined. Her exhibitions focus on alternating themes, artists, communities and regions. She has courted important collectors and organized major solo exhibitions of trailblazing artists. Her ability to engage with Inuit artists, which is a challenge in the field, has been one of her main strengths as a curator. In 1998, she became Curator of Inuit Art at the WAG.
Ms Wight has published 20 illustrated catalogues and many shorter brochures. She was a regular contributor to Inuit Art Quarterly and has authored 47 articles, papers and invited lectures. She has lectured at the University of Manitoba and at universities and art centres across Canada, the Unites States, and Europe.
Ms Wight possesses a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of Inuit art and an inexhaustible passion for the subject. For decades her efforts have put Inuit culture, an integral part of our national identity, in the Canadian spotlight. Her curatorial excellence has helped us understand the full extent of our national character.
But her working life did not begin in the realm of art. She began as a teacher. She graduated from Peterborough Teacher’s College in 1968 and taught Grades 4 and 5 in Ottawa until 1970. For five years she worked in libraries in Kingston, Ontario, and Ottawa. In 1975 she began studying art history at Carleton University and in 1980 she earned her Master’s degree, passing with distinction. In 1981, still in Ottawa, she worked as the Fine Arts Curator for Canadian Arctic Producers, a wholesale art marketing arm of Arctic Co-operatives Limited. From 1984 to 1986, Ms Wight worked as an independent curator and researcher in Ottawa before coming to Winnipeg to work at the WAG as an Associate Curator.
Ms Wight has ventured into Canada’s Arctic to conduct countless in-depth interviews with artists from many communities, especially in the Kitikmeot and Baffin regions.
Today, Ms Wight is honoured for her unwavering efforts to celebrate and illuminate art, and for amplifying the voices of Inuit artists for generations to come.