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Louise Leatherdale speaks at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Friday after donating $1 million toward the gallery’s Inuit Art Centre. (Shane Gibson/CBC) After seeing the collection of Inuit art stored in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s basement, Louise Leatherdale and her late husband Doug knew they wanted to help get the pieces in front of the public.

Leatherdale was at the WAG Friday to announce a $1-million donation toward the gallery’s $65-million Inuit Art Centre, slated to open in 2020.

"We were astounded by the beauty of it," said Leatherdale of the gallery’s collection. "The more we talked the more we realized that we wanted to be committed to this project.

"It’s important to Winnipeg, it’s important for the nation and it’s important for all of us internationally."

Leatherdale says she and her husband, a Morden, Man.-born businessman who died in 2015, first fell in love with Inuit art after chancing upon a few pieces at a Toronto art gallery 30 years ago. Adding to the collection

The couple acquired around 25 pieces of Inuit art in a personal collection that Leatherdale said Friday she plans to donate to the WAG’s 40,000-square-foot, four-storey Inuit Art Centre, currently under construction at the south side of the downtown gallery.

"Doug and I decided a long time ago if the Winnipeg Art Gallery would like them, we would certainly want them to have them here," she said.

"They get to come home."

The WAG says the Inuit Art Centre will be the largest single gallery space in the world devoted to Inuit art, culture and history, and will house the gallery’s massive collection of Inuit art, which includes more than 13,000 pieces. The $65-million centre will house the largest collection of Inuit art in the world. (Submitted/WAG) The centre will include exhibition spaces, a glass-enclosed visible art vault, a conservation facility, art studios, a two-level interactive theatre and classrooms.

The Leatherdales’ donation will be used to create the Doug and Louise Leatherdale Gallery, a space the WAG says will complement exhibitions by exploring themes in more depth and offer alternative perspectives to the art.

"It offers artists — be they senior, be they emerging, be they established — it gives them a new exhibition space that did not exist before," said WAG director and CEO Stephen Borys.

"It will help us connect through the power of art."

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