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April 20, 2019

Powers donate Inuit art collection, endow program at U-M Museum of Art

March 21, 2018

Powers donate Inuit art collection, endow program at U-M Museum of Art

Ann Arbor community leaders Philip and Kathy Power have created the Power Family Program for Inuit Art at the U-M Museum of Art, positioning the museum as a national leader in the curation, exhibition and understanding of Inuit art.

Their transformative gift to UMMA includes the Power family's significant collection of Inuit art, numbering more than 200 stone sculptures and prints and valued at more than $2.5 million, as well as a $2 million gift to initiate and endow the program in perpetuity.

Their contribution represents the largest gift to UMMA in the Victors for Michigan campaign and brings their total campaign giving to well over $5 million.

"Inuit" characterizes what used to be called "Eskimo," namely indigenous people living in the Arctic. The Powers' Inuit collection, primarily from the mid-20th century, represents an important phase in the development of the carvings and prints from the people living on Baffin Island in northeastern Canada.

Philip and Kathy Power with a piece of Inuit sculpture that is part of the collection they are donating to the U-M Museum of Art. (Photo courtesy of UMMA)

"Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Phil and Kathy Power, UMMA will establish itself as a national center for Inuit art," said UMMA Director Christina Olsen. "Their gift will enable the museum to share the art of the Inuit people with audiences throughout the United States.

"The Powers' Inuit collection, one of the most important of its kind in the country, will serve as a platform for UMMA to develop a broad program of engaged learning around the artwork of the Canadian Arctic and related issues, such as climate change. We look forward to sharing this remarkable collection with the community and nation."

The Power Family Program endowment will initially be used to support guest curators, outreach programs, educational staff and docent training. Over time, UMMA will establish relationships with Canadian and Inuit institutions, launch student internships or fellowships and support ongoing research.

Philip Power, a 1960 U-M graduate, is a former newspaper publisher and served on the U-M Board of Regents from 1987-99.

In 1965, Power started the HomeTown Communications Network Inc., an award-winning group of 65 community newspapers in the Upper Midwest. In 2006, he founded the Center for Michigan, a "think and do" tank that encourages greater understanding and involvement in policy issues among the state's citizens.

Kathy Power is an active community volunteer with such organizations as Planned Parenthood and the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Philip and Kathy Power are longtime donors to the university, supporting many programs such as the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Student Publications, University Musical Society and the Center for the Education of Women.

In 1971, the Power Center for the Performing Arts opened on the U-M campus, thanks to lead gifts from Philip Power and his parents, Eugene and Sadye Power. Philip and Kathy Power have been active volunteers for U-M, and with this gift they will join the Victors for Michigan National Campaign Leadership Board.

These pieces of Inuit scupture — (from left) "Hunter," made from stone, ivory and sinew, and "Seated Hunter with Fish," made of stone and ivory — are part of the Powers' collection that is being donated. (Photo courtesy of UMMA)

Captivated by the art traditions of the Canadian Arctic, Philip Power and his father founded Eskimo Art Inc. in 1953 to build awareness and appreciation of Inuit art in the United States.

The Ann Arbor-based nonprofit organization brought the art of northeastern Canada's indigenous people — stone carvings, prints, drawings and pastels — to the U.S. art market. The company was dissolved after Eugene Power's death in 1993, and control of the entire industry passed into the hands of the Inuit themselves.

"Over the years, our family built a collection of Inuit art that ranks among the best in the world," Philip Power said. "Kathy and I decided to gift it to UMMA so as many people as possible could experience it and understand how Inuit people understand and cope with their harsh Arctic environment — now under dire threat from climate change."

In 1995, the Power family donated part of the collection to the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Mich.

"We hope the Power Family Program for Inuit Art can make this prodigious contribution to the world's culture more accessible and better understood by as many people as possible — in Ann Arbor, in Michigan and around the country," Philip Power said. "We're delighted to be working with UMMA as a partner in that effort."

UMMA will inaugurate the Power Family Program for Inuit Art in spring 2019 with an exhibition of selected works from the Power family collection.


David Erdody
on 3/22/18 at 9:09 am

Eugene Power was a well traveled collector and this is a generous donation. What I liked most about Eugene is that he developed a special projector to display book pages onto the ceiling so bed-ridden patients could read books.

Janine Capsouras
on 3/22/18 at 9:14 am

I am thrilled to learn that the Powers' will be gifting the University with such a unique and historically valuable collection of indigenous art. I have been following Inuit art for many years, and am excited to be able to to be able to view and learn more about it through my local, campus museum. Thank you so much for this generous and priceless donation.

-Janine Leah Capsouras, MA '98, staff-Michigan Medicine

Elizabeth James
on 3/22/18 at 10:23 am

You have my deepest gratitude as a Powhatan alumni who majored in the History of Art, yet rarely saw my people represented in my studies. With this incredible donation, along with the Curtis collection, UMMA represents many more cultures for its patrons to discover. I can't wait to share this information at the Dance for Mother Earth this weekend!!

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