Park dedication for Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook to come up for vote

·2 min read
This week, a city committee will vote on dedicating an unnamed park to Annie Pootoogook, an internationally renowned Inuk artist who won the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006. Pootoogook died in Ottawa in 2016.
This week, a city committee will vote on dedicating an unnamed park to Annie Pootoogook, an internationally renowned Inuk artist who won the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006. Pootoogook died in Ottawa in 2016.

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A plan to dedicate an unnamed park in Sandy Hill to internationally renowned Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook is about to come before municipal officials for a vote.

This Thursday, the community and protective services committee will vote on a staff report that recommends dedicating the park to Pootoogook, an award-winning artist best known for her pen and coloured-pencil drawings of contemporary Inuit life.

Originally from Nunavut, Pootoogook had been living in Ottawa when she died in September 2016 at the age of 47.

Her body was found in the Rideau River, and although her death was initially considered suspicious, Ottawa police later deemed it to be non-criminal.

After Pootoogook's death, Stéphanie Plante started the campaign to get the park behind the Sandy Hill Community Centre named after her.

"I don't think it's a secret that the last two years of her life were quite difficult," said Plante, who didn't know Pootoogook personally but often interacted with her on the neighbourhood's streets.

"She spent a lot of time on city streets begging. [But] people knew her. She was very friendly, she was never mean."

A big fan of Pootoogook's work, Plante said she also launched the campaign because there aren't many public spaces in Ottawa named after women of colour.

"[We need] to represent the colourful tapestry of the city of Ottawa," she said.

"It's home to politicians and it's home to people of notable stature, but we also have some local superstars who definitely need to bear their names on the topography of this city."

Important for her daughter, says adoptive dad

The park dedication will be especially important to Pootoogook's daughter, who was only four at the time of her death, said Veldon Coburn, her adoptive father.

"She never really had the chance or opportunity to to get to know her mother at all," said Coburn, a member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan.

"She'll see how Annie had left that mark on others, especially those in Sandy Hill."

It's also important, he said, to have greater representation for Inuit people in the nation's capital.

"They hold a very prominent place here as their own diaspora community," he said. "It's very nice to have Inuit recognition here on Algonquin Territory."

If the staff report is passed by the committee, it will then go to city council for a final vote.