The work of Inuit artists is core to the University’s collection.

The art history department at Carleton was founded in 1966. George Swinton taught the first Inuit art course in the early 1970s and purchased the first works by Inuit artists for the collection in 1981.

CUAG opened its first exhibition, A Collection Is Only Human, in the fall of 1992. It included works by Jessie Oonark and Kenojuak Ashevak from the Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks Collection of Inuit Art, a gift to Carleton University facilitated by Dr. Marion Jackson, a scholar of Inuit art. Many other collectors have since entrusted their collections to the University. 

Today, the collection comprises 1493 works by artists from across Inuit Nunangat, including 707 sculptures, 578 prints, 146 drawings, 32 videos and 9 textiles, mostly created between the 1960s and the 1980s.

Artists working in the communities of Kinngait, Qamanittuaq, Puvirnituq, Ulukhaktok and Pangnirtung are represented in strength. Large bodies of drawings by Luke Anguhadluq (29) and Parr (58) are of national significance. Other artists represented in depth include Kenojuak Ashevak, Jessie Oonark, Davidialuk, Pudlo Pudlat and Helen Kalvak. 

The collection also includes the Isuma Inuit Classic Collection, which spans twenty years of filmmaking (1987-2007) by Zacharias Kunuk and Igloolik Isuma Productions and includes the work of Arnait Video Collective.

Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection, is CUAG’s first collection catalogue and most ambitious publication, featuring the work of more than 90 artists and 34 guest writers. In 2009, it was awarded first prize in the American Association of Museums’ publication design competition.