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Cape Dorset, Nunavut - the most artistic community in Canada

April 18, 2012

Since the 1950s, Cape Dorset, which calls itself the “Capital of Inuit Art” has been a centre for drawing, printmaking, and carving. Even today, printmaking and carving are the community’s main economic activities. Cape Dorset has been hailed as the most artistic community in Canada, with some 22% of the labour force employed in the arts.

In 1957, James Houston, European-Canadian created a graphic arts workshop in Cape Dorset. Houston collected drawings from community artists and encouraged local Inuit stone carvers to apply their skills to stone-block printing. The print program was modeled after Japanese ukiyo-e workshops. Other cooperative print shops were also established in nearby communities, but the Cape Dorset workshop has remained the most successful. They have experimented with etching, engraving, lithography, and silkscreen, and produce annual catalogs advertising the limited edition prints.

Between the years of 1959 and 1974, Cape Dorset artists produced more than 48,000 prints. Well-known artists of Cape Dorset include Nuna Parr; Pudlo Pudlat; and Kenojuak Ashevak.

Sculpture continues to have great importance among three generations of artists from this community. Although small-scale works, following the tradition of highly detailed ivory sculpture, are in evidence today, Cape Dorset artists are noted for their large-scale stone sculptures. Inspired by representation, the concept of transformation between shaman and spirit helper or spirit animal; arctic animals adopting naturalistic or humorous human-like poses , are popular themes, in addition to a myriad of other subjects and styles, personal to each individual artist.

As of the 2006 census, the population was 1,236 an increase of 7.7% from the 2001 census.


Cape Dorset has successfully inculcated an artistic community over more than 50 years. It has exported artistic works throughout the world. Way to go Cape Dorset.