In the mid-1960s, when the international market for furs and seal skins softened and hunters were struggling for income, Terry Ryan encouraged them to draw and carve. (B.Ritchie/WBEC) Terry Ryan, who played an instrumental role in building Cape Dorset’s famed print studio and a community of artists, has died.
The founding manager of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (now called the Kinngait Studios) in Nunavut died on Aug. 31 in Toronto. He was 83.
According to an online obituary from Turner & Porter Yorke chapel, which is handling the funeral, Ryan died peacefully in his sleep after many years living with Parkinson’s Disease. Tim Pitsiulak’s Running Rabbit, a piece in the Cape Dorset print collection in 2016. (submitted by Dorset Fine Arts) Ryan was born on Dec. 18, 1933 in Toronto’s Beaches area, where his family owned a hardware store, Ryan’s Hardware.
He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1954 and made his first trip to Canada’s far north in 1956, according to a biography by the University of Manitoba Archives, which holds a large collection of Ryan’s work.
Ryan settled in Cape Dorset in 1960 and began working for the fledgling West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative (WBEC) and became general manager shortly thereafter.
Some people in Cape Dorset had trouble pronouncing Ryan’s name, so he was given an Inuk name which translated as "man who sketches on paper," said Jimmy Manning, a longtime arts advisor in Cape Dorset who first met Ryan in 1968.
Through the WBEC, Ryan is credited with playing a prominent role in introducing Inuit art and artists to an international audience.
In the mid-1960s, when the international market for furs and seal skins softened and hunters were struggling for income, Ryan encouraged them to draw and carve, Manning said.
"Over the years, this became a very important thing for the community," he said, adding that Ryan used his connections to galleries, museums and other collectors in North America and Europe to link the art with buyers. Collecting art by dogsled
In 1964, Ryan undertook a four-month dogsled journey to Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Igloolik, according to the U of M biography.
During that excursion, he collected 1,863 pencil and pen drawings by 159 Inuit. Those drawings are now in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa. Jimmy Manning said Ryan ‘had a lot of roles in our small community.’ (Chris Publat) As general manager of the co-op, Ryan sourced stone for carvings, initiated visiting artists and fine craft programs, and managed the production of Cape Dorset’s annual print catalogue.
Manning said Ryan also served as counsellor on the Cape Dorset settlement counsel and as the community’s justice of the peace.
"So Terry had a lot of roles in our small community," he said.
Ryan served as general manager of the WBEC until 2000 when he opened Dorset Fine Arts in Toronto. He retired in 2008.
He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1983, was made an Honorary Fellow of the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1995, and was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts in 2010.
Ryan’s funeral will be held on Sept. 16 with a reception to follow at a Toronto art gallery.
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