Arviat’s Susan Aglukark is well decorated already, so one more award on top of everything else – Order of Canada, multiple JUNOs, Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards – might seem like just another in the pile, but her latest recognition hits a special note in her heart.
“It’s very unique and it is definitely one of the more special ones, because it feels like a full-circle thing for me,” said Aglukark about being set to receive the 2022 Humanitarian Award presented by Music Canada at the 51st annual JUNO awards.
Her first album was named Arctic Rose, with the song by the same name being the first time she had expressed through music how it felt to lose a friend to suicide.
“Thirty years later, I am able to create a charity called the Arctic Rose Foundation, whose work is expressive art and reconnecting with our sense of dignity and re-instilling hope,” said Aglukark.
She began the Arctic Rose Project 2012, eventually designating it as a registered charity under the name Arctic Rose Foundation in 2016 and incorporating it in 2020. The organization works to support Northern Inuit, First Nations and Metis youth through the creation of Indigenous-led, arts-based after-school programs.
The pilot community for the project was Rankin Inlet in January 2017, with the first full school year of activities taking place there and in Arviat in 2018-‘19.
The foundation pivoted to virtual programming due to the pandemic, with a presence in Cambridge Bay and Arctic Bay as well.
“In spite of the pandemic, we have continued adapting,” said Aglukark, adding Sanikiluaq was set to take on the program until Covid cases began climbing again. “The response has been really good.”
She’s excited to see a potential end to pandemic restrictions and the ability to go back to the in-person program, as it was meant to be.
“As soon as the schools give us the go-ahead, we are back there in person,” she said, adding that’s where the expressive arts aspect of the program works so well.
Aglukark will be receiving her humanitarian award at the JUNOs in May. Until then, she has a new album called The Crossing due to release April 29, and she continues work on her expressive arts manual, scheduled to come out this fall.
She wanted to acknowledge community partners in Rankin Inlet for their support running the project, including Arctic Co-operatives, Calm Air, Canadian North, Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik and the youth workers.